Altoona Area Public Library officials pleaded last week for the Altoona Area school board to continue its cash subsidy of $200,000 a year.
They didn't receive much encouragement.
"We will take your presentation seriously," was the best they got from board President Jim Walstrom.
If the library loses district funding, it might not be able to comply with state operational mandates, which could result in a catastrophic loss of state funding, library board member Dick Hall said.
Those mandates include a prescribed number of hours per week in operation, seven full-fledged librarians on staff and 12 percent of the budget dedicated to the materials collection, Hall said.
"The outcome would be dire," he said.
Getting the subsidy is far more important to the library than saving the expense would be for the district, Hall argued.
It's 21 percent of the library's $956,000 annual budget, yet just 0.22 percent of the district's, he said.
The library is already hurting from prior cuts, Hall said.
The district sliced $20,000 from the subsidy last year, while the state has proposed a $20,000 reduction for this year after cutting 20 percent the year before and 10 percent the year before that, Hall and library Executive Director Jennifer Knisely said.
There are "compelling reasons" for the district to continue its support including the two institutions' "alliance" since 1896 and the architectural vision that placed the library on the high school campus as a "cornerstone," Hall said.
The library is a good steward of money, Hall said.
Its 41-member library staff isn't highly paid, and Knisely earns just $37,000 a year, he said.
"It's almost embarrassing," he said.
The library has been trying to raise funds by other means, he said.
It has been creative, diligent, even "unorthodox" - discussing the possibility of becoming a distributor of passports and even the possibility of installing a coffee shop, to draw patrons and increase revenues, in hopes of maintaining or increasing hours.
It has continued with fundraisers, including used book sales, and it has continued to encourage bequests and memorial donations, while planning new ventures like a golf outing and a deal by which it could get a share of a restaurant's revenues during a designated period, he said.
The library has tried to be forward-thinking technologically and plans to obtain electronic books.
The technology it has already is critical for many patrons: The 27 Internet-connected computers are in constant use by those who include people looking for jobs and lacking their own computers to help them hunt for others, he said.
The library has also been working with three fewer employees, as it tries to cut staff through attrition, Hall said.
School board member Dick Lockard asked whether the library has asked the city for help.
It hasn't, "for political reasons," because recently retired executive director Debbie Weakland is the wife of City Manager Joe Weakland, which would have made the solicitation awkward, Hall said.
But the library plans to ask the city - and Logan Township - now, he said.
School board member Ryan Beers suggested that the district could make gradual cuts to the subsidy over three or four years, so the library could adjust.
The cash allowance isn't the only funding the district provides, Lockard said.
The district provides in-kind subsidy valued at $120,000 or more a year for the free use - including utilities and major maintenance - of the library building, which the school district owns, Hall said.
The library was open 343 days last year, had 205,000 lendings and 125,000 visits, Hall said
"As a place to go, I can't think of a better place than a library," he said. "You can read a newspaper or work on a doctoral thesis - the appeal is universal."