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Cumberland County Works To Offer Better Library Services Despite Budget Cuts

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FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — Nationwide, less public money is going to local libraries. In New York, for example, many branches will soon put out donation boxes. Many libraries across North Carolina are faced with similar cutbacks.


Cumberland County

, the library system is trying to come up with a happy ending despite tough times.

As an art teacher, Carmen Johnson likes to be on top of the latest trends, but she does not see a lot of recent selections on the library shelves.

"If we aren't up to date as teachers and adults, it's hard to pass it on to the kids," she said.

The library system also cut its staff by 43 people, its hours by 25 percent and children's programming by 65 percent.

Over the last three years, Cumberland County's library budget decreased by more than $1 million annually. That means buying 14,000 fewer books a year and keeping some battered and worn titles on the shelves.

"We had some very popular programs we had to reduce, unfortunately, because we don't have the staff to provide them," library director Jerry Thrasher said.

Budget cuts have also increased the wait times for best-sellers. For example, for those who want to listen to the new Harry Potter book on CD, it is no available on shelves. The library system could only afford to buy seven copies and the waiting list is 30 people long.

However, the plot is improving. The county restored some money to this year's budget to extend operating hours at three Cumberland library branches starting in the fall.

That will be helpful for people like Adrienne Oats, who cannot make it the library between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. because of their jobs.

"I can come more often, spend more time, bring [my son] with me," she said.

The hours are not as long as they were three years ago, but with a four-part plan, the library director said this story is to be continued.


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