Increased use + stagnant funding = ?
Library circulation is up 14% this year, and 50% more library cards have been issued than in 2008. But funding hasn't increased. What to do?
The Library's Board of Trustees has voted to eliminate Sunday hours, beginning immediately. Well, beginning in October: the Library is closed on Sundays during the summer, but in recent years has been open from October through May from 1 to 4 p.m. No longer.
Trustees also cut spending on books, periodicals, CD’s and DVD’s by $101,000.
These cuts come just four months after the Library purchased 35 acres north of Spring Street and Newman Road to be used for the future construction of a second library. The $1,199,056.99 price was paid from library trust funds -- money not available for day-to-day operations. In February, the city sought $36 million in federal stimulus funds for a new library -- one that would be 120,000 sq. ft., twice the size of the present facility -- but that's a longest of long shots.
The library's new schedule will be: Monday -Thursday, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. That's 54 hours per week; five years ago the library was open 76 hours a week. The previously announced Mobile Library schedule is unchanged.
By state law, the city and county fund libraries at no less than the average of the three previous years. This means that while costs may go up, library funding stays roughly the same from year to year. The city provides just over $2 million per year, the county $1.3 million. Fines add another $100,000 and state appropriations are about $20,000.
Meanwhile costs rose about $500,000 since 2005, and use of library materials and services has increased tremendously.
“Library staff have been very creative in eliminating unnecessary routines, developing more efficient and effective ways of meeting patron needs, and doing as much as possible with less,” said Board President Theron Snell. “Obviously, we have more work to do as the economy and funding remain as they are.”
Because of the stagnant funding and increasing costs, the Racine Public Library Foundation was created to begin raising funds for operations through bequests. For more information about the RPL Foundation, call 636-9170.
UPDATE, Sept. 22: The Library sent out the following figures:
For every taxpayer dollar of investment in the Racine Public Library, the local economy receives a return on investment of $3.50 and a total economic contribution to the community of over $12 million, according to a study by NorthStar Economics, Inc. based on 2006 figures.
NorthStar looked at the direct economic contribution to Racine including jobs created by the Racine Public Library, library staff and visitor spending in the community, and the amount of money spent for library operations in the region. The Racine Public Library directly employed 51.5 full time equivalent employees in 2006. An additional 47.5 jobs are created indirectly, for a total of 99 jobs in the region.
The jobs created by the Racine Public Library are taxed through personal income and sales tax, generating income and spending equal to $423,127.
The study takes into account the market value of such services as children’s storytimes, adult programs, answering reference questions, Internet access, and the cost of providing a collection of books, DVDs, and CDs.
A statewide study was conducted in 2008 by NorthStar, and the library board contracted with NorthStar to study Racine separately. The Executive Summary and full study are available on the library’s website.