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Budget shortfalls keep Omaha public libraries closed

Published: Jul. 22, 2020 at 10:41 AM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The financial toll of the pandemic is hitting Omaha public libraries hard.

Their doors have been closed to the public for the last 19 weeks.

The executive director of the Omaha public library, Laura Marlane, says this has been really difficult.

“I’ve worked in libraries for 35 years,” Marlane said. “I’ve been, I’ve seen a lot of things, I’ve never seen anything like this.”

To stay afloat, they’ve had to make some cuts.

“We’ve had to let go, furlough, our part-time staff, which is about 2/3 of our staff, and that’s been really difficult for us,” she said.

Right now, the remaining full-time staff arranges the curbside pick up Wednesday through Saturday at five different locations.

At her budget meeting Tuesday, Mayor Jean Stothert said we have reached a critical point and she’s doing everything possible to avoid layoffs of full-time employees.

“The city needs Cares Act funding from the county and the state in order to make up some of the losses and the expenses from COVID,” Marlane explained. “And until that happens, we don’t have the funding needed to reopen.”

The reopening comes with a hefty price tag.

Marlane explained they need $70,000 just to pay for their security guards, that’s not including the cost to add in plexiglass and other safety measures.

Even when the money comes, there won’t be enough staff to open all 12 locations.

“Our plans when we do reopen would be four locations that we can staff at that capacity, indefinitely,” she said.

For now, librarians and the people missing them will have to wait.

“To not be able to have the funds to open, to just have our budgets decimated by a pandemic, it’s just not something anybody had planned for,” Marlane said.

To utilize the library’s curbside pickup, you’ll need to reserve books online and schedule a pickup appointment time in advance.

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