WEST END, Ohio (WKRC) - The traditional stacks of books and magazines are at the West End branch of the Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library.
But increasingly, patrons use the branch to access the internet to find a job, do online schooling and even file paperwork to avoid evictions or collect unemployment.
Branch manager Keloni Parks says the building has become a social center in the neighborhood, especially during the pandemic.
"It's definitely a community hub for the kids. A lot of times they decide to meet here, usually play video games or just chill,” Parks said.
The current state budget being considered by the Ohio General Assembly would cut funding to public libraries by $10 million statewide.
That would be a $1-million dollar to the Cincinnati and Hamilton County system, one of the largest in the state with 41 locations.
Paula Brehm-Heeger, the Eva Jane Romaine Coombe Library director for the system, says the possible economic harm to the community goes well beyond that. She cites economic impact research showing a positive impact of between $5 to $6 for every dollar spent by the local library system.
Those benefits range from saving people money on internet access to helping people find jobs to saving people money on subscriptions or even faxing in public assistance paperwork.
"That would translate to maybe $5-$6 million dollars in unrealized economic benefit to our community in one way or another," she said.
Ohio also has the highest usage of public libraries per capita, according to the Ohio Library Council -- a rate double the national average -- and a rate of about 7.5 visits per year per person, also highest in the country.
Ohio state Sen. Cecil Thomas knows firsthand the benefits libraries provide, especially in low-income communities. He's trying to restore the funding for libraries permanently.
“I've had individuals who have told me they were able to advance their education by going to the library and ... getting their degree just by doing their work at the library," Thomas said.
The local library system starts its summer reading program for kids in early June. Click here for more details.