Prince George's County libraries cut managers, mull movie moratorium

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Local,Maryland,Matt Connolly,Prince Georges County

Prince George's County libraries won't be cutting hours in the proposed county budget, but residents looking to catch this year's summer blockbusters may be out of luck.

County Executive Rushern Baker pitched a complete moratorium on DVD purchases among $820,000 in library cutbacks in his proposed $3.2 billion budget.

"Hopefully we won't notice a loss in supplies, but that'll be hard I'm sure," said Marsha Voigt, who used to lead Friends of the Greenbelt Library. "Thank heavens it wasn't worse."

Other cost-saving measures are already in the works. In April, the county will reduce the number of managers -- while almost every one of the 19 branches currently has its own manager, the new structure will keep just five to watch over groups of three to four libraries each.

"It got very clear that this would help us to streamline our management, give us better communication and let us focus on the specific needs of the various communities as opposed to having duplicated cookie-cuter services in each and every branch," said Kathleen Teaze, director of Prince George's County Memorial Library.

Recent county budgets have not been particularly kind to the library department, which has sustained a budget decrease of nearly $3.5 million in the past five years. This year, Baker is facing a $152 million budget gap.

"We've tried to get rid of all the easy stuff," said Baker's budget chief, Thomas Himler. "Now we're getting to the harder things."

Himler said that management and materials cuts would lead to the loss of up to 23 library positions, though some of those employees could be eligible for other positions. Others may take the county's new retirement incentive package -- $1,000 for every year of county service to retire between May 1 and July 1.

In Montgomery County, meanwhile, Exective Ike Leggett's proposed budget adds 34 library positions and longer branch hours after five years of cuts.

Teaze stressed that decisions over purchases have yet to be made -- the library could still purchase DVDs, though it would have to offset the cost by buying fewer books and CDs or scaling back programming.

"We're cooperating with the county, but we're trying our utmost to not reduce services," she said. "We've all been doing more with less."

mconnolly@washingtonexaminer.com

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Matt Connolly

Examiner Staff Writer
The Washington Examiner