The war on libraries is real.

The Craighead County Jonesboro Public Library will soon lose 13 employees because of major funding cuts voters approved last year, the library director confirmed today. Library officials also expect to close one or more branches.

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Director Vanessa Adams said the library system gave notice in the past two days to the two full-time and 11 part-time workers affected. “It is horrible,” she said. “We lost half of our budget.”

The cuts will take effect Dec. 23, she said.

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“We had 36 full-time and 14 part-time [employees] before we started the reduction in force this week,” Adams said in a text message. “We already had 2 people retire this year and 2 or 3 resign and their positions were not filled when they left.”

As for whether additional layoffs may be necessary, Adams said in an earlier phone interview, “I just can’t say yet.”

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Adams said library officials are still considering which of the five Craighead County library branches it will have to close. The library system also has three Poinsett County branches, but they are not affected because voters in that county have not cut library funding as Craighead County voters did last November. (Poinsett County’s population is about 23,000, much smaller than Craighead’s 112,000 population.)

The library system also will have to reduce its offerings of materials, from rental books to movies and other items, Adams said.

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The library system announced the cuts Tuesday on Facebook:

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In November 2022, Craighead County residents voted to defund the library by cutting its millage from 2 mills to 1 mill. Organizers behind the measure, which was added at the 11th hour to the ballot, were galvanized by a gay pride display at the library in January 2021.

Adams said the cuts are only now taking effect because the library is forward funded, meaning it won’t directly feel the impact of reduced funding until January.

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The good news is that Adams is hopeful a proposal to refund the library will be on a ballot next year and that it will pass. “I feel pretty positive about it,” she said. Going through these problems “will make us stronger,” she said, and will make residents more aware of the library’s offerings.

Dean MacDonald Jr., a young Democrat who fought hard against the defunding, reminded voters on Facebook that there is a solution.

“For those that wish to rectify the wrong that was done to our library and our greater community, you should know: it only takes 100 signatures to put their funding back on the ballot,” MacDonald wrote. “With an honest campaign, a good message, getting the word out and ensuring that your friends and family VOTE, we can fix this.”