LARGO — The economic downturn has been tough on public libraries. Hours, staffing and budgets for new books have been slashed in many communities.
And though the economic climate seems to be improving these days, the Largo Public Library's budget for new materials took a $50,000 hit when city commissioners approved the 2013 fiscal year budget in September.
A campaign the Greater Largo Library Foundation has started may help fill the gap. The foundation is asking people to "sponsor" library books.
The book sponsorship campaign is a new chapter in the foundation's fundraising efforts.
"We wanted to do (a fundraiser) that was more book-oriented, more library-oriented, and was a way to keep bringing up the excellence of the library," said Scott Thompson, who heads the library foundation.
People are asked to make a monetary donation — of any size — and their name will be printed on a tag inside a book that is purchased by their donation.
It costs the library about $50 to buy a new book, apply special book bindings and security tags, and catalogue it, Thompson said.
"There's a lot of processing that has to be done," he said. "You can't just go buy a book from Borders and put it on a shelf in the library."
The goal of the current book sponsorship campaign, which was launched in early January, is to raise $50,000, Thompson said.
"We're already seeing some success," he said, with $2,000 raised in one month.
People can sponsor a book in memory of a loved one, as a gift or just because they feel like it, Thompson said.
However, sponsors don't get to choose what book their donation will purchase. A library committee determines what books are bought or replaced.
Since the Largo Public Library is part of the countywide Pinellas Public Library Cooperative, sponsored books may be shared with libraries outside of Largo. However, sponsors still will be able to look up their name and their book in the library computer system, Thompson said.
"There will always be a record that their name is in that book," he said.
After its materials budget was cut, the Largo library had about $350,000 to work with when buying new materials, which includes more than just books.
Even if the budget hadn't been cut, the foundation still would be helping out. Thompson said the organization is a nonprofit dedicated simply to raising more money for the library, regardless of budget cuts.
"We raise money to enhance things (at the library)," he said. "If we do more, then the library can do more."