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November 22--  Four area counties may lose most of their library services due to lack of state funding.

The Ohoopee Regional Library System runs public libraries in Toombs, Montgomery, Tattnall and Jeff Davis Counties.

Director Dusty Gres says the level of state funding has been reduced to 40 percent and that's basically to pay for library professionals.  The libraries have already had to reduce their hours of operation and the hours could be cut even more next year.

"The big focus right now is getting the funding we're going to need for fiscal year 2015 which starts July 1.  They are telling us there will be no state money for books and materials nor maintenance and operations.  The only money we'll be getting is for the state-required professionals," she says.

Gres says the library board will be appealing to county commissioners to increase their local share of library funding by up to $30,000 in each county.  The Toombs County funding amount for next year is currently $36,000, which is the same amount in this year's budget.

According to the director, folks in rural areas should get the same level of services as those in urban areas.  She reports many less fortunate people can't afford Internet service and use the library for that purpose.

"Many of the poor people don't have Internet at home so they use it here.  It's also interesting that during the past three years, the use of books has increased.  Also, we have started circulating electronic books and we're getting more people going back to audio books," she said.

Gres is asking citizens to contact elected officials at both the state and local levels and appeal for funding of the libraries.

"Speak to your state representatives and tell them that particularily in the rural areas we need state assistance just to provide the basic kinds of services that other people get.

"Speak to your local representatives and tell them you know tax dollars are scarce but that the library has got to be available for everyone and for our children," she says.