08/20/13 — Library dealing with impact of local cuts

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Library dealing with impact of local cuts

By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 20, 2013 1:46 PM

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Eathan Dial searches the shelves for a book at the Wayne County Public Library on Ash Street. Budget cuts are forcing the library to reconsider its spending plans in the coming months.

A $30,000 budget reduction in materials for the library could mean a year of just getting by, Wayne County Public Library's executive director said.

Donna Phillips added that it is too early to know for sure what the recent budget cuts by the county commission will do to the library's collection and offerings, but she added that plans to expand services and to explore more technological offerings are definitely on hold.

"I can't say a number -- that we had to reduce by this number of items,'" Mrs. Phillips said. "What we tried to do here, we sat down with the management staff and we tried to look at that whole line item strategically. We tried to spread that cut out across all of those areas. So the fiction took a little bit of a hit. The nonfiction took a little bit of a hit. The electronic resources took a hit."

About 65 percent of the budget's materials line item is spent on books and periodicals, she said. Periodicals will be evaluated, but Mrs. Phillips noted that subscription renewals do not all come due at the same time.

"We may very well have to cut some of the periodicals," she said. "What we have done, and this is not new, you will see on our shelves out there now in our periodicals section a printed survey that we have been polling our patrons.

"We have been asking them if there are magazines in the library that they do not use. Are there some we don't have in our collection that they would wish that we did have? If there are things that are not circulating, or not being used, then that is not a good use of money, and the library wants to make the best spending decisions possible."

Many public libraries offer services where patrons can access magazines online, she said. That is technology the library had wanted to look at, but will now have to wait to see if it is affordable, she said.

"Our public told us when we were engaged in the strategic planning process that they would like to see an improved fiction collection," she said. "Again, these cuts will affect our ability to do that."

About 25 percent of the materials budget is spent on electronic resources -- electronic databases and eBooks. Another 10 percent is spent on recorded books and video recordings including movies and educational items.

Over the past year, library staff and community residents have worked through the strategic planning process, she said.

One of the findings from that study was the need to innovate -- to consider new ways to get materials to patrons -- and to make it easier for them to use the library. Those changes will have to wait for another year, Mrs. Phillips said.

"We are just going to be maintaining because these new technologies, the pricing right now is still a little higher than other things, so it costs a little more to innovate. But when you get a significant cut like this, it is not going to be the year that we are going to be able to do innovation."

The library also had been looking to implement new models for improving access and delivery, she said.

One product is a reader's advisory product, Novelist Select, that would link to the library catalog that helps people when they search for an item in the catalog.

"Oftentimes we don't have the item," she said. "It might already be checked out by another patron. But this tool will allow them to say, 'Well, if you liked this book, here are some books that other authors write that you might also enjoy.'"

The library joined a consortium of libraries that offers group cost savings for items including the databases.

"The library is very accustomed to being frugal with its spending, really being accountable for the dollars being invested in us," she said. "So we look for opportunities for savings. By joining the consortium we can get better prices on items like Novelist Select."

Mrs. Phillips said she is hopeful the savings will be sufficient to allow the library to add the program.

There was some good news -- the state did not reduce its funding for libraries, and Wayne County will receive $161,274, she said.

Mrs. Phillips and some of her staff spoke with local legislators and their staffs during Library Legislation Day at the General Assembly.

"They heard us," she said. "We asked them to try to help us to secure State Aid to Public Libraries. There hasn't been an increase in State Aid to Public Libraries in a number of years, so we were just hoping to hold our own this year. We were very pleased to have that outcome, very appreciative."

The only federal funds the library receives come through competitive grants. The library has not yet applied for any grants for this year.

Mrs. Phillips remains optimistic that the local funding picture might improve.

"We were all told that there might be an opportunity to request amendments to our budgets if things improved -- if there was a need that we would have the opportunity to express that," she said.