Kuskokwim library expecting to shrink staff, hours from budget cuts

Kuskokwim Consortium Library. (Photo by Anna Rose MacArthur / KYUK.)
Kuskokwim Consortium Library. (Photo by Anna Rose MacArthur / KYUK.)

With the state budget expected to shrink, the Kuskokwim Consortium Library is preparing for a downturn on its ability to provide services starting this summer.

Library Director Cheri Boisvert Janz said staff will likely drop from three to two full-time positions and doors will open for fewer hours.

With only two people, Janz said staff will have less time to help guests and get new materials on the shelves, and she said patrons can expect to feel the impact.

“It will be just not as high a level of customer service as we would like and I’m sure as the patrons will like, too,” Janz said.

The University of Alaska owns the library, and the whole UA system is readying to take a hit after Gov. Bill Walker slashed about 5% from the university’sgeneral fund in his proposed budget. In response, the Kuskokwim University Campus proposed a budget that Janz said cuts about 40 percent of the library’s funding, mainly because the space operates more as a public rather than university resource.

“There aren’t that many students here, so most of the people who come in here are from the general public,” Janz said. “Previously the school had paid the bulk of the money towards the library, and with the budget cuts, they really can’t anymore. There’s just not money to subsidize the public library.”

Janz said the library serves hundreds of people a day with Saturdays ranking as the busiest time.

“The computers are booked for the entire day. All the seating is taken. We have story time, which is popular. Sometimes it can get really chaotic. But it’s actually the best day here, because that’s what we’re supposed to be doing,” Janz said.

To continue doing that work, Janz said she’ll be asking City Council for increased funding while also looking for alternative financial sources like grants and creating a Friends of the Library organization. Historically the city has covered about 20 percent of the library’s costs.

The Kuskokwim University Campus declined to answer questions about proposed budget cuts at this time.

The new budget would take effect July 1, 2016.

Anna Rose MacArthur is a reporter at KYUK in Bethel.

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