Restoring library programs and credibility

July 14, 2014

Imagine you’ve had your hours cut at work. You loudly bemoan the belt-tightening you will have to engage in. But then a well-to-do cousin feels sympathy for your plight and signs a check that not only makes up the chunk of salary you’d be losing every week, but also allows you to have more to stash away or devote to other needs.

That would be an occasion for some serious relief and joyful heel-clicking. Your day-to-day life could go on as before.

So it would seem more than a little peculiar if you thanked the cousin, put the whole amount in a certificate of deposit at the local bank, and proceeded with your plans to end your cable TV subscription, skip a few car payments and subsist on only Ramen noodles and powdered milk because, well, only your salary covers those expenses.

That, in essence, is what Citizens Library in Washington is doing with a $100,000 donation it was given by an anonymous benefactor. Coming a month after the library engaged in a vocal campaign to not have Trinity Area School District cut its annual donation to the library, which in the 2013-14 academic year came to a little over $26,000, the library is apparently not going to use any of the $100,000 donation to restore funding for cuts to the library’s children’s program or reinstitute a staff position it is losing through attrition.

Last week, library director Diane Ambrose said Citizens does not use large donations for salaries and daily expenses. In most circumstances, this would be a hallmark of prudent financial planning. But just weeks after Ambrose herself declared that the loss of Trinity funding would constitute “a very serious blow to the library,” not using any of this $100,000 gift to soften this “very serious blow” raises questions of just how serious that blow really was.

And since the $100,000 gift arrived just a few days after the library lost its annual $26,000 allotment from Trinity, it can be deduced that the benefactor was acting in response to reports about the budget cuts, and hoped that the things the library was looking at axing would be saved. But, because there were no conditions attached to the gift, the library can use it as it wishes.

Given the value Citizens Library has in the Washington community, using $26,000 of that $100,000 donation – just a little more than one-fourth of it – to restore what was lost as a result of Trinity’s funding cut would represent a wise, long-term investment. It would also fortify the library’s credibility in advance of the next budget battle.



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