or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Doing Less, With Less

   February 5th, 2009 Brian Herzog

Cutting MoneyEconomy...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.

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Reference Question of the Week – 3/9/08

   March 15th, 2008 Brian Herzog

Stock ticker in Hong KongA patron walked up to the desk and asks for a resource that tells him how the world financial markets are doing.

At first, this seemed like an easy question. But after I thought about it a minute, I realized we don't have any print resources in the library devoted to world financial markets - just the domestic markets.

So, we tried a few different internet searches, and "global market index" seemed to yield the greatest number of reputable websites, such as:

Plenty of other websites referenced international indices, but I couldn't tell how reliable they were. Also, some only did currency exchange, but that wasn't what the patron was after.

The patron was happy with this list of urls, so he jotted them down to bookmark when he got home.

The financial world is still mostly a foggy mystery to me, so every time I do get a question about it, I try to poke around and keep looking until I learn something.

In this case, I soon found myself at the About.com page for Foreign Stock Exchange Quotes. Listed as one of the links on this page was Google Finance, and since I use Yahoo Finance for various things, I thought I'd check out how Google compared.

While searching here, I think it was me using the term "world" that led me to the World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc.'s financial statements. Of course I was curious, so I took a look, and here are some interesting facts from their 2007 annual data:

  • revenues: $485.65 million
  • expenses: $417.22 million
  • net income: $52.14 million
  • they paid $24.33 million in taxes
  • they also had a line item for "Research & Development" but no monies charged to it

Sadly, the reports weren't very detailed, so I couldn't tell how that $417.22 million was spent. Also sadly was their lack of research and development - but at least they had a line item for it. Now this was worth learning, wasn't it?

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