State Library of Ohio and The Ohio State University Extension to Offer Program for Public Library Employees
By: Mark Mabelitini, Director, Tipp City Public Library
To say that 2009 was a challenging year financially for public libraries would be an understatement and the Tipp City Public Library faced challenges like never before in its history.
By December 2008 it was clear that deteriorating economic conditions were going to have a significant impact on library funding. Projected decreases to the Public Library Fund and in interest income were projected to result in a shortfall of about $57,000. To make the budget work, we made cuts to materials, supplies, and property repairs. However, these cuts would have seriously undermined the quality of services we could provide to the community. The cut to the materials budget alone was nearly 80%. To make up this difference we developed a plan to raise the funds needed to restore the cuts that were made.
This fundraising plan would have both short-term and long-term benefits. The short-term benefit would be the initial funds raised to meet the shortfall. The long-term benefits would include not only an overall increased awareness of the library, but the fundraising plan itself would also generate a core of donors. These donors could become repeat donors, contributing to the yearly operation of the library as well as to future projects and to our newly created Endowment.
The plan was to seek contributions from the Friends of the Library, from individuals, from businesses/corporations, and from civic groups and service organizations. The plan met with some success, raising nearly $4,000 within just a few short weeks.
However, by June it was clear that the budget before the Ohio Legislature was going to result in further reductions in funding for libraries. At the Tipp City Public Library, these cuts resulted in a reduction in hours of operation from 57 hours to 35.5 hours per week. There were no staff layoffs or positions eliminated. Instead, all staff took a 20% reduction in hours and pay.
These cuts were drastic and additional funds were needed to restore them. The Board of Trustees voted to place a 5-year, 0.75 mill levy on the November ballot. This levy would generate $285,000 per year. The levy passed with 67% yes votes and all hours and cuts were restored on January 4, 2010.
The funding crisis of 2009 has made libraries look at how they do business. Twenty years ago Ohio public library standards called for 20% of the operating budget to be spent on materials, 20% spent on overhead, and 60% spent on personnel. This has not been possible for the past 10-20 years as budgets have been frozen and payroll costs have increased.
These traditional percentages are out-of-date with the way libraries are run today. Twenty years ago libraries were not automated or were just starting to be, there were no online databases, and there was no resource sharing on the level that it is done currently. Also, the kind of service provided today is different. For example, not until the early 1990s was there the level of attention and resources given to Young Adult services that YA receives today. Computers and information technology also play a much larger role. Today’s library budget calls for a different allocation formula.
A larger allocation of the operating budget for personnel is needed. Allocating 70% is more in line with the needs of today, yet is still lower than other service organizations.
Regarding library materials, 20% is no longer necessary with many print items now available online, the Ohio Libraries Connect partners funding the majority of databases used by library patrons, and the resource sharing available through our membership in the SEO Consortium. A more reasonable percentage of the budget committed to materials is 10%.
Overhead must include funds to replace computers, memberships and other necessary fees to belong to a consortium like SEO, and to buy the necessary supplies to provide programs that draw patrons to the library (especially children and teens). Even so, 20% is still an accurate amount because there are items we no longer purchase (book cards and pockets, equipment for out of date circulation systems, etc.).
Therefore, in today’s environment, our budget breakdown should be:
While we need to be more prudent with our expenditures, simply making repeated cuts to the budget is unacceptable. Library patrons expect and deserve the high quality library service that Ohio libraries have consistently delivered. Fundraising plans that address current operations as well as long-term goals must be undertaken so that high quality service is maintained.
There is no doubt that the next year will continue to be financially challenging for public libraries as the impact of the cuts to the Public Library Fund are fully realized. Yet, Ohio libraries will work to meet these challenges as best they can in order to serve their communities.