February 6th, 2014 Brian Herzog
Here's a sentiment that has bothered me ever since I started working in libraries: the idea that an accountable portion of everyone's tax bill goes into the library budget, and that anyone could dictate exactly how "their" portion is spent.
It bothers me because it is the exact opposite of how community-funded resources work, and it's difficult to convince someone of this who is dead-set on it.
Recently one of our patrons requested we purchase a specific book. However, it didn't fit our collection development policy*, and was kind of expensive anyway ($55), so I had to tell the patron that the library wouldn't be purchasing it.
There were copies in libraries not too far away, but they were all reference copies, so I couldn't even request it for her. It's unfortunately when a library can't fill a patron's request, but it does happen.
However, this patron was upset with my decision, and came back with the argument that she was a tax payer, and she wants her tax money to be used to purchase this book.
This got me wondering just what an average resident does "contribute" to the library's budget, so I did some rough calculations:
- Library budget is roughly $1,500,000
- Chelmsford population is roughly 33,000
- So, $1,500,000 / 33,000 = $45
These numbers are very rough, but I was surprised the contribution was even this high - and that it happened to be so close to the price of the book in question.
But if we did allow this sort of earmarking, it would mean that this patron's entire year's library privileges, plus part of next year, would be tied up in this one book. If this system was used, she couldn't use any other library resource: no other books, DVDs, etc, she couldn't come into the library and use our electricity or heat, and she wouldn't be entitled to any assistance from staff. For more than a year.
This is why this kind of micromanaging is impossible in community-funded resources. Taxes stop being "my taxes" as soon as they're paid to the Town, and then become "our resources." That money is then spent by responsible stewards - librarians, Town Clerk, DPW workers, etc - in a way that best benefits the town overall. Everyone in town, who are all treated equally, regardless of how much their tax bill is.
I apologize for the rant - I know this is all basic Library 101 stuff, but maybe only to librarians.
*It was a genealogy book about early settlers of Jamestown, VA, and no sources I consulted drew any connection to Chelmsford, MA. We only collect local and regional resources, and this just didn't fit. Plus, since we have a limited budget, purchasing it could mean that two other items more relevant to Chelmsford don't get purchased. This is why collection development policies are so important.
October 30th, 2012 Brian Herzog
I'm in Ohio this week* visiting family, and couldn't help but notice all the bright pink VOTE LIBRARY signs dotting the lawns in Huron, Ohio:
It got me curious, so I looked into what the library was asking for. Funding increases are certainly nothing new to the library world, but I thought the Huron Library has put together a good levy campaign. They've got info on their website as well as a dedicated website for the issue. Both have a nice embedded video explaining how the library will use the money to benefit the community - and my favorite part is that they break it down to the personal level:
The owner of a home with a market value of $100,000 currently pays $25 per year for library services. The 1.25 mills will cost that same homeowner approximately $39 per year - a total increase of $14 per year. For less than the cost of two hardcover books, or two DVDs, per year, quality library service to the community can be preserved. [emphasis added]
Because there are so many people right now who are against any tax increases at all ever no matter what ever ever, it's important to focus on the value of tax money - and do it in easily digestible language. For people in a community with a strong library, $14 is not much of an increase - and it's certainly easier to understand on a personal level than an increase of .45 mill.
Judging from the number of signs I saw around town, the Huron Library has a lot of community support for this levy - good luck, HPL!
*I had planned to just stay for an extended weekend, but Hurricane Sandy conveniently cut off any return route from Ohio to Massachusetts, so my five day stay became eight days of playing with nieces and nephews and helping my parents (besides, my library was without power for a couple days so they never missed me anyway). I hope everyone else affected by the storm fared well.
Tags: budget, funding, hpl, huron, increase, levy, libraries, Library, oh, ohio, public, sign, vote, voting
August 22nd, 2012 Brian Herzog
One of the creators of the infographic below sent it to me saying,
I worked closely with the ALA and IMLS to create this infographic about "Why support your local library?" We are using this to drum up support for volunteers, donations and legislative actions.
I like that it addresses the counter-intuitive notion that during a bad economy, library budgets need to be expanded because we get so much busier. It's a hard sell, even with the statistics to back it up.
Update 9/12/12: a data error was found in the original infographic, and this version has been updated.
November 17th, 2011 Brian Herzog
Earlier this week I received the message below from Salem Press. I don't know what kind of distribution their programs get, but I thought this was worth sharing:
THE LIBRARY GRANTS CENTER
A free, no-registration resource for librarians.
Librarians need help finding help. So we scoured the web in search of grants and awards for libraries. We discovered the options extend far beyond free money from national and state sources.
Hundreds of grants are available to libraries of all types from local foundations, family trusts, small and large corporations, professional organizations, and the publishing community. You owe it to your library to find out more about the financial aid available.
Basically it's a listing of available funding sources for libraries, with information on national grants, state grants, and a how-to section for the application process.
Just about any potential funding source is a good one when you're in need, so I thought this might be a very useful site for libraries. Thanks to Salem Press for putting it together.
Tags: budget, budgets, funding, grant, grants, libraries, Library, public, salem press, source, sources
May 5th, 2009 Brian Herzog
A few months ago, I mentioned that our town budget, and subsequently my library, were facing major cutbacks. Thanks to our Friends of the Library group, the library's situation has improved dramatically.
The Town Manager's original budget proposal included cuts that would have crippled the library, because we would have lost our state certification - and thus the ability to participate in reciprocal borrowing, use resources paid for by the state, etc.
In response, our Friends group mobilized, big time. They started email and letter campaigns to get people to write to the Town Manager expressing their support of the library. They set up a table in the library to collect signatures to a petition, which was staffed by Friends volunteers for weeks. They posted an open letter on their website, along with a funding FAQ detailing our situation.
And it paid off. Their efforts prompted thousands of people to write or sign the petition - pretty significant in a community of 32,000. In fact, staff at Town Hall said they've never gotten this much public input on an issue before.
When the Town Manager's amended budget was released, library funding was restored to the level where we'll at least qualify for a state aid waiver - which means we wouldn't lose certification. This budget was voted on - and approved - at the Town Meeting last week, and that is good, good news for the library.
So thank you, Chelmsford Friends of the Library. This shows why Friends groups are important, and how dedicated volunteers can shape their community.
February 5th, 2009 Brian Herzog
Economy...bailout...economic stimulus...TARP...blah blah blah...
All of this becomes more than background noise when you find out that your library's budget is being cut and people are losing their jobs.
Sadly, this is happening at my library. Because of decreased Town revenues and less financial aid from the state, the Chelmsford Library has had to reduce hours at our branch, lay off three people, and not replace four others who have left since last summer.
Sadlier, reduced staff also means reduced services. We're protecting core functions like our materials budget, but programs like our One-on-One computer training will have to be cut back or eliminated because we just don't have enough staff to offer them.
And these are just the things we have control over. What we can't control is that this was a disproportionate budget cut - meaning the library's budget was cut more than other Town departments. Because of this (in Massachusetts), there is a very real chance the Chelmsford Library will be decertified, which means we'll also lose the ability to provide interlibrary loan service to our patrons.
This isn't set in stone yet, and there is a possibility of getting a waiver, but when it comes to core library functions, interlibrary loan is right near the top. Especially in Chelmsford, which has the highest circulation of any library in our consortium.
I know it's corny, but I have always liked this Anne Herbert quote:
Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries.