News

NYC Use of Libraries Grows, Government Support Has Eroded

New York Times blog posts loss of hours to New York City (Manhattan, Bronx & Staten Island) library branches, even though the libraries are utilized more than ever.

New York City’s libraries are open an average of 43 hours a week, about the same as a decade ago and down from a high of 47 hours. “Even the Detroit public library system stays open longer;” the report noted. Columbus’s libraries are open an average of 72 hours a week. Despite the relatively short hours, the study found, New York City’s libraries “have experienced a 40 percent spike in the number of people attending programs and a 59 percent increase in circulation over the past decade.”

San Francisco’s government contributed $101 per capita to the city’s libraries, the highest of any city in the study, while New York’s library systems all received between $30 and $40 per capita, below Seattle, Boston, Detroit and others.

Board Members Vote to Close MO Library

From The Joplin Globe: SENECA, Mo. — Just days after Newton County Library Board members voted to close the Seneca library branch on Nov. 1, community leaders are rallying to reverse the decision.

“We’re starting a petition to keep the library here in Seneca,” said John Dodson, Seneca Area Chamber of Commerce president. “Anybody in the county can sign it.”

News of the closing, he said, “has been a major shocker for the entire community.”

Dodson said he plans to speak to the board during its next regular monthly meeting in October and will present the petition in hopes of reversing the board’s decision. Board members voted Tuesday to close the branch library, citing fiscal constraints.

“Just like everyone else in (Seneca), our mouths are hanging open,” said Seneca Mayor Mark Bennett. “Everyone is speechless.”

Newton County voters rejected a proposal for a 15-cent levy increase. The vote in Seneca was 175 against, with 30 in favor.

No Chance of Saving a MI Library Branch

DEARBORN — Is there any way to save the closed Snow Branch Library? That was the impassioned plea of resident Steve Hammarskjold at the City Council meeting Monday.

The answer is no. The city listed the building, which was one of its four libraries, for sale in a legal notice in last Sunday’s editions of the Press & Guide Newspapers. The asking price is $590,000, and the bidding deadline is Aug. 29.

The library, 23950 Princeton at Telegraph Road, opened in 1960 and was closed Sept. 2, 2011, as part of city budget cuts. Some of the library’s collection of 35,000 to 40,000 items was transferred to Henry Ford Centennial Library and some items in the collection — along with fixtures like tables, chairs and shelves — were sold at a silent auction in April.

Report from the Press and Guide.

Voters Favored Libraries This Election Day

Looks like there were a number of victories for libraries in the recent election cycle. Check out these stories:

Ukiah CA

Ames, IA

Billings MT

South Hadley MA

Farmington, MI

Dearborn, MI

Pittsburgh PA

Saint Paul, MN

Evolving libraries say, ‘Check us out now’

Toga parties, martini meetups, stuffed-animal sleepovers and more are designed to keep book lenders relevant. The article is here.

BHAG 3.0 What’s Next?! Sustained Library Advocacy

Library advocacy is not a one-time deal. Keep a good thing going: http://goo.gl/xn1NI

Great People Work in Libraries

If you don’t live under a rock, you know that a minor earthquake hit the East Coast of the US earlier this week. Libraries and other facilities suffered some damage, nothing too serious thank goodness.

Here’s the story (in words and pictures) of the staff at the University of Maryland Libraries, from their flickr page.

The ground shook. The books dropped. The staff got to work.
McKeldin Library at the University of Maryland was the site of a major cleanup after more than 13,000 books fell from their shelves following a rare East Coast earthquake.

Materials also fell at other libraries on campus, including Hornbake Library and the Architecture Library.

But just more than 24 hours after the quake, all the books were on carts, ready to be evaluated and sorted. Workers separated damaged books from those ready to be reshelved.

JEFFCO (CO) LIB BOARD BEING SET UP FOR A FALL

It’s been an incredibly busy time for the Jefferson County (CO) Public Library Board of Trustees and Library staff.

  • The Board is trying to find a new Executive Director for the Library while the Library operates under Interim Director Pam Nissler.
  • The Board is short-handed after the newest member, Catherine Hildreth, resigned. The Commissioners had failed to advise her adequately of the level of commitment required for the position.
  • JCPL has had to prepare a “Zero-Based Budget (ZBB) in addition to their regular budget

The funding and budgeting situation is precarious. At the Library’s current mill levy, 3.225 mills, JCPL will experience a drop in funding of about $1 million a year because of declining property assessed values. Please understand that this drop will be experienced by the whole County and the Library is more than willing to bear its fair share of this burden.

The problem is that on top of this reduction, the Library is suffering a loss of almost another $2 million because the Commissioners are already “shifting” its tax money into other departments. In other words, the burden is NOT being shared. The Library is being asked to shoulder more of the burden to balance the County’s budget.

Now that the ZBB process is under way, the Commissioners have begun to reveal their true purpose in this exercise: to set the Library Board up for a repeat of last year’s fiasco and source of the Commissioners’ ire.

You may remember that last year the Commissioners decided to continue “shifting” almost $2 million from the Library’s tax levy and instructed the Board to spend down its Reserve Fund rather than cut services. The Board decided that spending its reserves was not sustainable and to continue running as close as possible to a balanced budget. After painful analysis, the Library determined the best cost-cutting option was to close libraries on Mondays. The Commissioners were irate. Their attitude has been “we told you how to do it in your budget by spending your reserves but you wouldn’t listen.”

The Zero-Based Budget involves breaking the Library into 38 “business units” and preparing a cost justification from scratch for each unit. At their first ZBB meeting with the County on July 25, staff presented the outline of a detailed budget based on their current level of operating expenses. The Commissioners told the Library that it should not base its budget on any specific level of funding. Acting Director Pam Nissler replied that the Library’s standards are based on JCPL’s Long Range Fiscal Plan as well as the Colorado Public Library standards of service and that the current budget permits a level of service at about the 50th percentile. “Oh No”, said County Administrator Ralph Schell. “You can’t use library standards – if you do, you’ll be asking for too much money!”

The Commissioners intend to examine each line-item of the Library’s 38 “business units” not just for justification and possible cuts, but to look for “overlapping services”, where the County thinks it is already providing similar services. Commissioner Rosier has specifically cited I.T. as an example. Once again, the County has no statutory authority for doing this.

So here’s the setup: The Commissioners will target line-by-line cuts in JCPL’s budget and reduce the Library’s funding (mill levy) accordingly. Then they’ll tell the Library Board exactly how to spend that money to achieve the Commissioners’ level of cuts. If the Library Board asserts its statutory spending authority and insists on a balanced budget requiring service cuts rather than depleting its resources, the Commissioners will be even more irate than they were last year. It’s a no-win situation for the Library. I predict the BCC will even charge the Trustees with fiscal mismanagement for ignoring their “suggestions” for how to spend the Library’s money.

This situation has some very important ramifications:

  • JCPL’s funding will be slashed yet again to supplement Social Services and other County functions.
  • Further cuts in services will be necessary to avoid depleting the Library’s reserve fund.
  • The Commissioners effectively take over the Library Board’s statutory authority and responsibility to determine how the Library’s money is spent.

The Library Law states plainly [C.R.S. 24-90-109(e)(I)] that the Library Board of Trustees has “exclusive control and spending authority over the disbursement of the library funds as appropriated by its legislative body, including all assets of the public library fund, as set forth in section 24-90-112 (2) (a)”

This is nothing short of an attack on the Library and the Board of Trustees. The Commissioners goal is pretty clear – to use the Library’s property tax levy as a fungible source of revenue for the County and to continue to tap it to balance their own budget. Not only is this damaging to the Library, it is an insult to the taxpayers who voted to fund JCPL twenty five years ago.

Remember, folks: If we’re going to protect the Library from this blatant political meddling and protect our tax money from the sticky fingers of the County Commissioners,  IT’S UP TO US

Sign Statement of Support and donate at:  www.savejeffcolibraries.org

Tom Atkins

www.savejeffcolibraries.org

Bad News from the UK

Nine libraries in Dorset have funding withdrawn

Bolton latest to confirm library closures