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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

You Get What You Pay For

Over the last several months, the question has been raised: What does it REALLY take to run a library???

It's usually asked by someone wanting to get by on the LEAST possible investment to make sure this city service starves and goes backward rather than continues to thrive as we knew it once.

The answer to that? What kind of library do you want?

In 2007 when Director Cathy Russ was hired, the library operated under the following conditions:

5.2 million dollar budget, including $775,000 for acquisitions

Three full-time administrative positions

15 other full-time employees

100 part-time employees

One of the first things Director Russ did was eliminate the redundancies in her own administration. She cut the two Assistant Director positions – for a total savings of $250,000 in salary/benefits. She herself was hired in at a base salary of $70,000 – well below the $110,000 salary of the previous Library Director whom she replaced.

Over time, continued cuts were made – some voluntary, some forced on Ms. Russ by the city’s financial trouble, until we landed at today’s current situation:

2.7 million dollar budget, including roughly $400,000 for acquisitions

4 full-time positions, INCLUDING Ms. Russ

52 part-time employees

100 volunteers

We have a mid-level library that is barely humping along -- partly because it's been planning to CLOSE for two years. Who wants to be hired for a job he/she may not have in a few weeks? Who would train volunteers and then say, "But sorry, we don't need you now."

Residents keep asking for a PLAN for how it will operate, what it'll look like in five years, how it can be made valuable again.

Well, when you've been having a "going out of business" style of operations for two years, it's difficult to gear up for the future, isn't it?

We need the millage to keep the library open so we can create that plan using it, by seeing programs return as the Friends of the TPL gear back up, but SUPPORTING the library.

This millage will raise an AVERAGE of 2.7 mil over the five years to fund the mid-level library we have now. Though it's true it will bring in about 3.1 THE FIRST YEAR, property values are predicted to continue FALLING for the next 3-5 years, so that number will decrease with it. Again, it's an AVERAGE.

But without it, we have no library. The books will be shrink-wrapped, the doors locked, and the learning, sharing and fun over.

Is THAT the kind of library you want?


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