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Library usage up, funds down

Budget cuts result in furlough days, less materials

September 08, 2010 - Brandon Twp.-In tough economic times, libraries typically see increased patronage.

The township library, 304 South St., is no exception to this rule— from 2006 to 2009, circulation has increased 51 percent here, and in 2010, circulation is up 9 percent over last year, says Director Paula Gauthier.

But the library, like most other public entities, is still suffering from the downturn in the form of reductions in revenue and despite serving more people, library officials are making cuts.

"Next year, we will have 15 furlough days where the library is closed and staff is not paid for those days," Gauthier said. "We're not reducing the library hours week by week, but we will have additional closed days, likely Saturdays."

In 2008, the library's budget was $1,132,309. It fell in 2009 to $1,031,000, and dipped again in 2010 to $1,025,000. On Aug. 24, the libary board unanimously approved their 2011 budget and the biggest decrease yet. Next year, the library will operate on $905,141, a nearly $120,000 decrease in funds. In addition to the furlough days, the board also approved a 30 percent reduction in collections budgets, which includes books, audio/visual materials and periodicals. In 2010, the library had $226,000 to spend on new books and materials for the facility's collections. In 2011, there will be $158,000.

"We're going to have to focus our buying more on our strategic plan, which means more small business and career support, and development of our young children's literacy collection. We'll have less breadth, but more depth in our purchasing."

Colleen Stringer, adult services librarian, said she will become more choosy when purchasing books for the library's collection.

"I won't get everything that won a prize, once in a while I'll skip something on the bestseller list," she said. "Generally, I'll go by more of what people are asking for and checking out. I will check the reserved list and let that dictate how many copies I buy."

To deal with a reduced budget, the board also approved the rebidding of a number of contracted services, including lawn maintenance, snowplowing, and building maintenance, reducing all and saving nearly $20,000 per year. A new medical plan is in place for the six employees who receive it, reducing costs by $23,000 per year. Staff has also been cut from 33 employees to 23 employees in the four years Gauthier has been director, but she said any more cuts to the staff will mean a cut in hours of operation.

"We avoided that for next year with the furlough days," she said. "Now we're bare bones. Our employees work with their hearts and souls. They have stepped up. There have been no raises since 2008, but we're here and we'll keep offering services."

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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