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Library dodges Ripon budget cut bullet

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POSTED March 9, 2009 4:29 a.m.

RIPON — Things didn’t seem like they were going to end on a positive note at the Ripon Memorial Library when the funding that helps keeps the doors open was on the chopping block last month.


With the effects of the state’s budget impasse still piling on financial problems to small municipalities that have had to do without their normal allotments, the City of Ripon – that now is looking to cut more than $600,000 from its current budget – had to consider not sending their annual check to the library to help extend the hours and keep the doors open.


But, according to Friends of the Ripon Memorial Library President Brigitte Long, things eventually settled down when the council – who has already had to lay off employees and cut their after-school youth program – agreed to continue with the contribution.


“We realized that was a very significant move on the part of the city,” Long said of their decision to keep supporting the beloved center that was renovated almost exclusively with private donations. “I think that the council recognized that during dire economic times like these that the library is one of the only places that people can come to find and learn about the issues they’re facing.”


The shake-up of the Stockton-San Joaquin Library System last month – where Head Librarian and Ripon ally Natalie Rencher was laid off – is also presenting issues that supporters like Long are going to have to wait out before they can really determine the impacts that they’ll have on the operation.


Until then, she says, it’s business as usual.


“One of the things that we’ve found is that many of the Friends are focusing a lot more on what their real mission in life is,” Long said. “When it comes to helping with the collection and the programming, we’ll be there to make sure that we have a top-notch facility.


“But when they’re talking about closing the doors, there’s not a whole lot we can do but just wait and see what happens.”


The group estimates that it costs somewhere in the neighborhood of $75,000 to maintain a library collection for a year, and are already well on their way to reaching that goal to make sure that the volumes and materials available don’t become obsolete.


Using some of their left over money from the building project, the Friends made a $20,000 donation to the City of Ripon that was used to secure a matching-funds grant that ended up giving them $40,000 – more than half of their goal. A fundraising drive added another $16,000 and put them even closer.


From this point forward, Long said, it will be trying to secure the rest of the funds and preparing for whatever happens down the road with the library system.


“In spite of everything that has been going on, we’ve been trying to grow the Friends and so far the group has a very active and organized board that consists of people who really want to promote literacy and see the library succeed,” Long said. “I think we’re well positioned to make the decisions we need to make, whatever they may be.”


Those looking to become a member of the Friends of the Ripon Memorial Library, or to obtain information about making donations, can do so by visiting the group’s web site at www.riponfriends.com.

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