September 18, 2009

Library hours cut again, as funding remains stagnant

You don't have to check out a mathematics text from the library to understand this equation:

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.


  1. As we may not like the news we can live with RPL being closed on Sunday.
    However we also need to reach in our own pockets and see if we can't see free to kick in $5 or $10 to donate to RPL I know I will

  2. Hold a fundraiser. Hold two or three a year. Local talent may be willing to donate their time and efforts to Library Fest. Festival Hall sits empty much of the year - throw one of those wingding parties that our city loves so much for the library. Erect a sign at the checkout desk explaining the situation and soliciting donations. Heavy users of the library should be willing to contribute more, if they can. A bake sale. An auction. An internet auction. A library rummage sale where residents donate items to be sold for the library. A labor bank wherein residents can hire local people (who are donating their time and labor for the library) to perform services. Hold a rally for the library in Pershing Park, charging an entrance fee. Raise library fines. Get local bars to sell booze for literacy.

  3. OrbsCorbs and Anonymous hit the nail right on the head. We, as a community, need to step up to the plate and help where we can to see that the institutions that make a community a community are sustained.

  4. Right now all levels of local government are trying to balance all the demands for service with a lot less money. The reality is more money for the libary means less money for public safety and plowing roads. Many government agencies have frozen public safety hiring so that tells you how tight things are right now.

  5. I will compose a rant on the subject of your choice for $5 and give the money to the library.

  6. Well, for those of us who have family who work at the library, this is GOOD news. Finally our Sundays won't be ruined over three measly hours.

    Unless you're in a major metropolitan city like Milwaukee or Chicago, it's almost unheard of for a small town library to be open on Sunday. So good for them to save money by cutting these hours and use the money for something better.

  7. The library is great! I think most of us appreciate the convenience, but totally underestimate the labor involved in doing the things we ask of a library these days. There's little that I cannot get from the library just by asking or signing up for it online. But the books and other items don't magically appear where they are needed. Lots of effort is involved, but they make it seem effortless.

    I'm thankful for this library and will be sending a check today.

  8. Don't be fooled, libraries are in decline all across the nation. They pump up their attendance with gimmicks like DVD loans, unsupervised internet access and coffee shops, all of which competes with real local businesses, putting them in decline!

  9. I will do a show 15 mins on Storm Racine on a subject of your chose and sing in verse how great you are for a $10 donation to RPL

  10. lets see less hours less service! Add the self checkout and that means less staff. Want to pick who goes? At a time we are needed most we reduce our hours. good thinking if you don,t want the most important services in the city. Those who cheer this are morons

  11. Heather in Caledonia9/20/2009 7:21 AM

    I'm sorry to see the cutback in hours and staff, but I understand the situation. Other services (fire, police) are more important than the library, so they do need to get creative. Orbs - great ideas! I would certainly attend. I go to every book sale and donate my old books for the next sale.

    For those who need better access to a library, check out Kenosha's libraries. Racine residents can get a Kenosha library card for free and there is a branch on the north side of town. They do have 2 branches open on Sundays for part of the year, also. There is also the UW-Parkside library for those needing to do research. You can use it for free, but will need to pay $15 for a library card.

  12. Does the library have members who pay annually? The zoo has members. Maybe quite a few wouldn't mind a $25 a year membership fee with recognition.

  13. As a life long library user and an employee I am saddend at once again cutting hours. this is a blow to the city that is trying so hard to make Racine a great place to live.

    But I know that the administration has done a yeomans job of making the best of a bad situation.

    Let your polititians know how important it is for them to support the best bang for your tax dollars.

  14. 3:57

    Yes you can join Friends of The Library.
    IMHO this is a project that if you can only give $5.00 will help a lot.

  15. Hey - let's build a new library???

  16. I'm glad to see that some of the people in racine still support the library. I am sure it means a lot to the employees that some people would be willing to donate to keep it open on sundays... unfortunately, the sunday closing is just the way it goes in this economy. However, hopefully this is just a one year thing!

    oh and by the way, 12:43, the new library branch land was bought with funding that cannot be used for day to day operations - it says it right in the article!