September 12, 2012 - By Susan Bromley
Brandon Twp.- The recession and declining property taxes have hurt the library, but a better future is being planned for the facility.
The library board met Sept. 10 and approved a 2013 budget for the library with matching revenues and expenditures of $928,562. That amount includes the additional approximately $90,000 in revenue garnered with the increased millage voters passed in August. With those funds, the library plans to increase hours of service to include Fridays beginning in January and increase spending on collections by about $13,000.
"I am pleased the millage passed and we have some additional operating funds," Gauthier said. "Passage of this millage didn't replace what we lost— it replaced only about a quarter of what was lost because of decreasing revenues, mostly due to decreasing property values. But, I am very pleased we have that additional revenue to operate with next year. Does it mean we can offer all services offered in 2008? No. But it means we can offer additional services over what was given in 2012."
At the meeting, the board discussed nine initiatives for the library's 2013-2015 strategic plan. The initiatives include examining staffing levels, using library space more efficiently, improving collections, marketing the facility better, expanding online activities, and better serving children, teens, and senior citizens.
"At this point, the list of initiatives is a draft," said Library Director Paula Gauthier. "There are nine, but they may not end up in the strategic plan, we may end up with only three to five."
The first proposed initivative is "Library board development— Charting a secure future" and could include development of a capital facilities improvement plan (currently non-existent), as well as an annual self-assessment of the board's performance. The initiative could also include a study of the library's economic impact on the community (their return on investment).
The second initiative addresses sufficient staffing and sustainable service. Library primary service standards define three recommended staffing levels for public libraries— .5 staff per 1,000 population at the "essential" level; .6 staff per 1,000 population at the "full" level; and .65 staff per 1,000 population at the "optimal" level.
Gauthier said currently the library is at .33 staff per 1,000 population, far below recommended staffing levels.
"There are 15,200 people in the community we serve," she said. "We are going to look at adequate levels of staffing and benchmark that. We may look at realigning and retraining some of the staff so they can do multiple things so all departments are well-served."
The plan's third initiative notes that the facility is fairly young, but recent public surveys indicate there is crowding in the teen area, "especially as it impacts adult users" and a staff survey cites "increased hours and enhanced security" as recommendations.
The fourth initiative is "Choice collections for discriminating customers." Gauthier notes that the library's circulation of materials has increased 58 percent since 2002. Patrons will notice a significant increase in offerings in specific collections with the millage passage, but a recent public survey indicates a need for "maintaining a deep and rich collections beyond the basics, especially literary materials." The Brandon Township Library is currently spending $3.30 on materials per capita as opposed to the $5.33 per capita average spent by peer libraries.
"The public survey indicated a need for improvement in the collections, especially ptrint literary titles, ebooks, audio books, dvds, and music recordings," she said. "This is a key strategy, as customers most frequently use the library to check out materials."
Strategies five and six cover marketing the library and launching "a virtual library" to reach out to more potential patrons, while initiatives seven through nine focus on increasing library services for teens, children, and seniors.
The next library board meeting is planned for 7 p.m., Sept. 24, at the library, 304 South St.