Charlotte Mecklenburg Library
Libraries across the country are struggling to remain relevant and productive in an increasingly digital society. Stanford University has decreased their engineering library by 85 percent, with the majority of books now available to students online. The D.C. Public Library offers downloadable versions of books, audiobooks, music, and videos via OverDrive. And the New York Public Library recently ran a promotion rewarding loyal patrons who check in using Foursquare — the first person to reach 25 check-ins was rewarded with NYPL schwag.
Other libraries have simply struggled to stay afloat following drastic budget cuts. In March, the Charlotte Mecklenberg Library Board of Trustees voted to close 12 branches and lay off nearly 150 employees. Eventually a compromise was reached to keep the branches open, but hours of operation and staff salaries were slashed. In Jersey City, N.J., three branches that were slated to close last week have managed to hold on a bit longer, though they’re basically on life support.
A handful of ailing libraries nationwide have even turned to private firms like Library Systems & Services to help with running their operations — a hugely controversial move among library loyalists.
Here in the Lowcountry (SC) hours have been chopped and nearly 20 percent of the staff positions are vacant thanks to a budget shortfall totaling over $700,000. Charleston City Paper
Here’s great coverage of the ongoing situation at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. Volunteers are needed and being trained to help do things like pull holds, check in materials, shelve, and organize the collections. This frees up the limited remaining staff to continue providing the excellent customer service that the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library is known for.
Library Volunteer Coordinator Chauna Wall told me that one of the hopes is that these volunteers will get a close up and personal, behind-the-scenes look at the work library staff do. These volunteers will be able to provide testimony as to the importance of libraries and will be some of the Library’s biggest advocates in upcoming elections and budget planning for next year.
With the drastic cut in hours to our remaining branches, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library staff have been shuffled around a bit to new locations. You have to love the way a children’s librarian can make anything fun! Take a look at this video from one of our librarians who is moving from ImaginOn to a nearby smaller branch. This is why I love libraries and the staff who work in them!
From a June 21 Charlotte Mecklenburg Library press release
Charlotte, NC – In a historic move, five of the Towns in Mecklenburg County have committed to providing one-time support to the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library for fiscal year 2011 (FY2011). In each of the five Towns, local governing bodies met, and approved or conditionally approved an Interlocal Cooperation Agreement with the Library. The Library would like to thank the governing bodies and staffs of all the Towns, as well as Mecklenburg County and the City of Charlotte, for coming together in support of libraries during this crisis.
The five participating Towns have committed to the following levels of support.
- Cornelius: $175,000 contribution
- Davidson: forgiveness of lease payment in the amount of approximately $37,000; and solicitation of additional donations to total $175,000
- Huntersville: in-kind contributions such as programs, cross-promotion, representative liaison for the Huntersville
- Destinations Round Table, and police/security presence in and around the North County Regional Library
- Matthews: restructuring of lease to defer current payment to 2018 of $205,000
- Mint Hill: $175,000 contribution
With this latest contribution of approximately $730,000 from the Towns, the Library will have approximately $23.3 million to operate its 20 remaining locations in FY2011. This is a significant decrease from approximately $32 million in County funding for FY2010; but an increase from the originally proposed funding level of $17.67 million. The Library still had to close four branches last week, and will have to cut hours at the remaining branches by 26%, and lay off approximately 66, or 18%, of remaining staff. 120 staff were laid off in April due to FY2010 reductions.
Based on this funding level, Library officials have proposed a schedule of operation, with 670-680 hours spread over 20 locations. This would group all locations into geographic areas or “pods” – each with one regional and several community libraries. In this proposed schedule, the regional libraries will be open at least 34 hours and 4 days a week; the community libraries will be open at least 32 hours and 4 days a week. This schedule is the hours equivalent of closing six branches. The Library Board of Trustees will vote on this schedule, as well as the FY2011 budget, at its regular meeting on Thursday, June 24 at noon.
To recap the Library’s FY2011 funding situation to date: last week, Mecklenburg County approved $21.17 million in funding for the Library: $17.67 million, plus $3.5 million contingent upon the Library agreeing to pursue the consolidation of some Library functions such as IT, Human Resources, Communications, Finance, and Capital Projects management. Mecklenburg County also credited the Library with approximately $2.28 million for the consolidation of its Maintenance and Security functions. On June 7, the City of Charlotte approved $1.4 million in one-time emergency funding for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, with similar conditions.
To help guide the re-examination of the Library’s operating and funding models, the Library Board expects to convene a citizen task force.
Citizens concerned about libraries can visit www.cmlibrary.org/support for more information. For more information about the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, visit our website at www.cmlibrary.org.
Last week Charlotte Geeks along with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library and Bouncing Ferret Films filmed several library advocacy videos featuring zombies who are suffering from the loss of libraries in the community. Watch the videos, share, but be warned these may not be for very young eyes!
See more at: http://www.zombiesforlibraries.com/
PARENTAL DISCRETION ADVISED!
Zombies Natural Habitat
Remembrance of Brains Past
Farewell to Brains
I’m sitting on my porch feeling utterly exhausted as I write this post… It’s Monday and I’m annoyed at the tiredness because I should feel refreshed from the weekend. But I come off this weekend as I have each weekend since March: wondering why I can never catch up on rest and realize that there’s just no rest. Everyone wants to know how the library is doing so I feel like I’m always answering questions, internalizing emotions, and figuring how to capture the current buzz to my system’s benefit.
I’ve got a PR background and a degree from one of the best journalism schools in the country. I get buzz. I typically love buzz. Buzz means people are talking and when people are talking you have an opportunity to do something; anything. You can take that buzz and spin it into the story you need it to be. Why? Because you’ve got the hot buzz button.
The Charlotte Mecklenburg Library system is all abuzz. The number of media hits we get a week have begun to equal tens of thousands of dollars in free media. Most companies would love to have the kind of attention our library gets. And, for the most part, we’re okay with the attention because it means people truly care what is happening to their library. But at some point and time the buzz will either become the overwhelmingly annoying vuvuzela horns of the World Cup or a gentle hum that everyone ignores.
Somehow, my system, and yours, need to find a way to capitalize on the positive buzz NOW while also counteracting the negative buzz that seems just as prevalent.
Intuitively, people LOVE libraries. They maybe haven’t had a library card since childhood but, come on, it’s a library. It’s harmless. How can you not love it? Try hearing repeatedly that your library system isn’t transparent when transparency is required and see how your community will shift from a generic love to a bit suspicious.
As with all stories there is your version, my version, and the truth somewhere in there. As researchers, book lovers, highly educated people, we should be the first to jump on board with telling the truth. Tell your patrons what is actually going on within your system. Your patrons desperately want to support you if you allow them the privilege to do it. But, first, get educated as to what your library system is doing during these difficult times. If your system is like mine, you get internal e-mails several times a week about the latest developments. You have Facebook pages and Twitter feeds. Follow along and understand what is being presented.
But also watch the TV news, read the papers, and listen to the radio reports to see how the story is being portrayed to those audiences. See what others are saying. You must be informed and ready to capture each opportunity presented to you.
Just today I sent a note to my friends in the area to request that they ASK ME any and all questions that they have; give me an opportunity to speak before jumping to a conclusion. Yes, talking is in my nature, and maybe it’s not in yours, but I highly encourage you to try it. Be ready to capitalize on the buzz. Remember, your reputation is all you have. Are you willing to let yours fall into the hands of someone who’s not nearly as invested? I’m not.
So, let’s accept the stories being told throughout all of our communities for what they are, stories. Let’s accept that we are a hot button in the buzz category and go after the potential there. When anything is in crisis it’s either fight or flight. I encourage you to fight for your library as I’m fighting for mine. Grab that buzz and make it work for you!
Charlotte’s media folks have latched onto the plights of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library system and continue to offer compelling stories to their audiences. Creating Loafing recently highlighted one of our staff, Sam Shapiro, and his film series that will be eliminated due to budget cuts. Programs and classes make our system outstanding and it’s the people behind these efforts that make everything happen. Check out the story and see if you can use a similar theme with your media contacts.
Libraries are more than buildings and books, much more. Libraries are the people inside these buildings; they make it all possible.
Check out Sam’s story here: What budget cuts mean for library programs.
Lori Reed asked me to assist in the monitoring and updating of this Web site. Though excited to contribute to such a worthy cause, I’m also extremely nervous. Lori is a guru at technology and I’m… well, I’m really good at talking. Hopefully, I can link you to the correct locations, educate you about the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library system, and give you hope for a brighter future in the world of life long learning.
I wanted to have my first post be about me, or more specifically, why me? Why would Lori ask me, a girl with a blog called Lipstick Makes Everything Better, work and write for a library system? Because a library takes everyone, even me, a former head cheerleader and Sweetheart Princess who may very well own library books from my childhood because I couldn’t give them up. I still don’t know my way around my home town because I read everywhere we went.
Libraries are for everyone. The young to old; rich to poor; doctorate degree to no high school diploma; you walk in our doors and you will be served by educated and trained staff. Your story time will include necessary building blocks to ensure you are ready to read. Your homework research assignment will be accommodated. Your need for further technology skills will be addressed.
Or, at least, all of that used to be the case. I believe staff will continue to meet community needs as best they can. But financial support is critical. When it comes to retaining the best talent, libraries are no different than any other business. It takes money, along with a positive work environment, to retain the best talent. I’m ready to stand up for an institution that needs champions. As a former cheerleader, I’m used to rallying fans. Join me. Let’s go, fight, win!
I sat at the Library Board of Trustees Meeting last Thursday and watched County Manager Harry Jones talk about the grim reality facing Mecklenburg County–a $13.2 million in immediate budget cuts across all departments before June 30th and an estimated $85 million shortfall for fiscal year 2010-2011 which begins July 1. You can view Jones’ presentation to the Library Board here: http://bit.ly/dgAZ7U.
After Jones’ presentation Library Director Charles Brown made his recommendation to close 12 libraries and layoff 148 staff members.
As you can imagine library staff were anxiously awaiting the news back at their branches or at home or from wherever they were connected.
I’ve been with the Library for nearly 11-years now and it is fascinating to see the role social media has played in these events. When we faced budget cuts in previous years it took days to get the news. Now with the advent of social media the news was transmitted instantly through Twitter feeds, Facebook, instant messaging, text messaging, and probably through other means that I’m not even aware of.
One former staff member tweeted that his heart was broken over the news.
But out of the meeting came a glimmer of hope when community members and the Library Friends group spoke up and said we can make a difference, we can do this. The tone in the room changed instantly from despair to hope. Before the meeting adjourned a library staff member back at her desk had created the event on Facebook $2 million in one week which aims to raise enough money to keep the 12 libraries open until July.
Since then the Library has raised more than $70,000 in online donations alone! Cash donations collected at libraries will be tallied on Monday.
This weekend saw grassroots efforts sprouting up all over Mecklenburg County with everything from a town-hall meeting to children selling lemonade to support the library.
Not only is the community rallying but staff members are rallying as well. Look for the next post which will show how you can help support the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.