Faced with dwindling funding on all fronts, the Murrieta Public Library and its supporters have had to get creative to maintain the level of service the library's roughly 1,200 daily visitors have come to expect.
The 25,000-square-foot facility has been popular since it opened in 2007, drawing visitors from nearby cities in addition to Murrieta residents, library Director Loretta McKinney said.
While the facility's popularity has not diminished, the same cannot be said for the annual budget. It was slashed from $2.4 million to $1.9 million during the 2009-10 fiscal year and reduced to $1.8 million the next.
Funding from local property taxes has plunged, along with disappearing state and federal funding for libraries, McKinney said. Even when home values recover, she said, it will take time for the tax revenue to rebound because of limits on how much a property owner's taxes can increase each year.
"We're really stuck in a quandary," McKinney said. "It's not going to be easy, but we'll get through."
At the library Thursday, a crowd gathered outside, waiting for librarians to open the doors at 10 a.m.
Carrie Diedolf, one of several charter school teachers there for meetings with home-schooled students, said that's not unusual.
"It's a small library," she said. "It's really busy in the afternoon."
Eddie Acosta, 40, of Murrieta, was at the library to use one of the computers. Acosta said he was out of work for more than a year
and has no Internet access at home. The library was the place he went to work on his job search. Acosta, who said he recently received a job offer, said he appreciated having free activities for his children during the summers.
"Everything adds up," he said. "You don't have to spend a lot of money at the library."
McKinney said the library is operating on the assumption that it will take a decade for funding to recover. Since the downturn the library has been cutting everything from staff to spending on collections. For the past couple years, it has been drawing from the reserve fund to the tune of $250,000 to $280,000 annually. The library reserve fund now holds about $3 million, she said.
At the same time, the nonprofit organizations that support the library, the Friends of the Murrieta Library and the Murrieta Public Library Foundation, also are struggling.
The two groups have joined forces to put on a jazz night fundraiser, scheduled for Sunday. They hope it will attract couples and others not involved in previous library events, which were smaller daytime affairs attended largely by Friends members, Friends president Judy Call said.
Despite the cutbacks, McKinney said the library is maintaining a highly-trained staff of 25, half of whom work full time, and is open six days a week.
"We have something for everybody," she said. "It's not just children. It's not just people who are out of work. We're here for everybody."