TOWANDA - Due to a lack of available funds, the Towanda Public Library is cutting the hours it is open by 24 percent, the library's treasurer said.

The cut in hours follows a "drastic" reduction this year in the amount the library is spending on new items for its collection, including books, DVDs, and audio books, said Ruth Tonachel, treasurer of the library.

The cuts are stemming mostly from the reductions in state funding for the library that have taken place in the last several years and the difficulty in raising funds to pay for the renovation of the library-owned Carriage House, where the Towanda Public Library's children's library opened last year, according to trustees of the library.

Rising expenses and the lack of financial support provided to the library by most of the municipalities it serves are also bringing financial pressure on the library, the trustees said.

"The last couple of years, the library has operated at a loss," which is forcing the library to cut its expenses, Tonachel said. "(Cutting library hours) is not something we wanted to do."

On Nov. 26, the number of hours that the Towanda Public Library's main library is open each week will be reduced from 54 to 41, a 24 percent reduction, Tonachel said.

Under the library's new schedule, the library will no longer be open on Fridays, she said.

In addition, the Towanda Public Library's main library will now close at 5 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays, instead of at 8 p.m., said Stephanie Grohol, desk librarian.

While the main library's hours are being reduced, the number of hours that the Carriage House Children's Library is open each week is being raised from 27 to 32, effective Nov. 26, said Katie Patton, children's librarian.

"We're trying to get the schedules (of the two libraries) lined up more with each other," Tonachel said, explaining why the hours of the children's library are being increased.

The main financial problem facing the Towanda Public Library is a cut in state funding for the library, which has declined over the last several years from $47,000 per year to $22,000 per year, said Marshall Dawsey, president of the library's board of trustees.

Compounding the problem is the fact that the library spent over $150,000 from its endowment fund to pay for the renovations of the carriage house behind the library, so that the children's library could open there, Tonachel said.

While the library had hoped to restore the endowment fund by raising an equal amount from the community, those fund-raising efforts have raised less than $30,000, she said.

And to fill funding gaps in the library's $160,000 annual operating budget over the last several years - this year the gap will reach $40,000 or $50,000 - the library has had to tap the principal of its endowment fund even more, she said.

"The children's library is a beautiful facility," Tonachel said. "Kids love it. It (the renovations that allowed the children's library to open) were well worth doing. But if we continue to (draw money from the principal of the endowment fund), in a few short years it (the endowment fund) won't be there anymore."

And at that point, there would have to be further cuts made in the library's expenditures, Dawsey said.

Despite the financial problems facing the library, the library did receive a piece of good financial news recently.

This year, a Towanda resident died, leaving a large amount of funds in trust for the library and other charitable organizations and agencies, Dawsey said.

The trust fund has been invested, and the annual income from the investments will be distributed to the library and to the other charitable organizations, he said.

The amount of investment income that will be distributed to the library from the trust fund is estimated to be approximately $20,000 per year, which will fill roughly half of the annual $40,000 to $50,000 funding gap in the library's operating budget, Dawsey said.

"The (money left in trust) will help significantly," Dawsey said. "I think it (the revenue from the trust fund) will start coming to the library next year."

The revenue from the trust fund would allow the hours that the library is open each week to be raised to at least 45, which is the minimum number required by the state, he said. But it would not allow all of the hours to be restored, he said.

The library will also be launching a fund-raising campaign in December to try to increase the size of its endowment fund, he said.

If the library could increase its endowment fund to the level it was at in the past, so that it was generating $20,000 a year in investment income for the library, the library would probably be able to restore all of the hours that are being cut at this time, Dawsey said.

The Towanda Public Library has received a waiver from the state that allows the its main library to be open only 41 hours per week, Tonachel said. However, that waiver only runs through the end of 2013, at which time the library would have to be open at least 45 hours per week, she said.

"Our donations, gifts and memorials need to increase greatly to take care of this operating deficit," said Nancy Lindstrom, a trustee of the library.

One of the main reasons why the Towanda Public Library has an operating deficit is that it is not receiving enough funds from the municipalities it serves, Lindstrom said.

Those municipalities decide on their own how much to contribute to the library, she said.

Towanda Borough levies a library tax on its residents, which raises $18,000 a year for the library, and Wysox, Towanda and North Towanda townships also make contributions toward the library, according to Lindstrom and Marshall.

But the contributions of the three townships are "nowhere equal to the amount the borough contributes," she said.

There are five or six townships in the library's service area that contribute nothing at all to the library, Dawsey said.

Due to a lack of funding, in 2012 the Towanda Public Library has been spending less than half of what it did the previous year on books and other materials for its collection, Tonachel said.

The Towanda Public Library's new schedule is:

- Monday, Wednesday and Saturday: open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

- Tuesday and Thursday: open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Closed Friday and Sunday

The Carriage House Children's Library's new schedule is:

- Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday: open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

- Tuesday and Thursday: open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Closed Friday and Sunday

(Please note: the Children's Library is closed from 12 noon to 1 p.m. daily for lunch)

James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633; or email: jloewenstein@thedailyreview.com.