Cuts hit city library as use, need rise; It’s a difficult irony for Portland, as patronage typically goes up during tough economic times.

Even if the Portland (ME) City Council reconsiders a library budget cut, the Portland Public Library plans to cut 12 percent of its workforce to meet its 2008-2009 budget goal.

The City Council proposed a cut of $50,000 in funds allocated to the library. The cuts coincided with an increase in expenses, and the library is already $220,000 short of its 2008-2009 budget goal of $3.8 million. The library’s increased expenses, largely due to higher costs for labor and support systems, total $175,000.

Even without the expected $50,000 cut, the library may eliminate the equivalent of six full-time positions – nearly 12 percent of the staff, said library director Stephen Podgajny.

Both library union leadership notes an unfortunate irony: library funding decreases when public demand is on the rise. Hard economic times lead to budget cuts, but “in hard economic times, libraries are used more,” said Sandra Shyrock, president of the Portland Public Library Staff Association, a union presenting library employees. The library has the equivalent of about 51 full-time positions.