By John Ostapkovich

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A new Pew study finds that the Free Library of Philadelphia is struggling to cope with changing needs and declining funding.

The study by Pew’s Philadelphia Research Initiative first compared the Free Library here with those in 14 other cities.
Project manager Larry Eichel, in a conference call, said the recession hit heavily.

“The Free Library’s revenue from all public sources fell by 19%, a bigger drop than in all but one of the cities we studied,” said Eichel. “With that came a 14% decline in staffing, again higher than most, and a 12% decline in weekly hours, also more than most.”

A parallel poll found that 30 percent of respondents use the library at least once a month, with not much variation among racial, ethnic, or income groups.

Although books and other reading materials were the #1 reason to visit, nearly 60 percent cited computer use, indicating that libraries are critical for many to access the Internet.  Two-thirds of those with incomes under $30,000 use library computers.

The Free Library’s president said she generally agrees with the report, and that it and a new strategic plan have a lot in common.

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