Library Budget Cut Further

More Services to be Reduced; Jobs Eliminated

The Board of Library Trustees met in an emergency session Sept. 6 to meet a City Council Finance Committee mandated reduction in the operating budget of $476,266. The committee is requiring the budget cuts to pay for the library’s share of additional city pension costs.

Reluctantly and with strenuous opposition, the board submitted the following additional cuts:

  1. Close all the libraries on Sundays. (Currently, the Main Library and four regional branches are open on Sundays.)  This is in addition to closing libraries one day per week, per the committee’s request of Aug. 25.
  2. Close the Maxville Branch Library.
  3. Reduce the operating hours at the three remaining neighborhood branches from 40 hours per week to 32 hours per week.

If all requested cuts are implemented, the library budget for Fiscal Year 2012 will have been reduced by $3.5 million from the current budget.  These cuts would have significant ramifications, including the following:

  • The library system will lose 260 hours each week: 23% of total operating hours
  • More than 250,000 lost opportunities to use public computers
  • More than 5,000 community meetings will have to be held somewhere else, potentially at a cost to those organizations, as library space will no longer be available on a weekday.
  • Services to customers with special needs will be cut by 20%.
  • 39 full time jobs and approximately 24 part time jobs will be eliminated.

More than 1 million visits were made to the library on Sundays and Mondays last year; customers checked out approximately 1.7 million items on these two days alone. The opportunity for literacy instruction, programs for children, and the availability of services for job seekers would be greatly reduced.

This action is not yet final—the full council will vote on the budget Sept. 27.  You have time to contact your city council representative and let him or her know that you do not want to lose library service! Find your council member by visiting the My Neighborhood search on the City of Jacksonville website and entering your address.

8 comments

  1. Why not charge for library use? Those clubs should have to pay to use the space. As individuals we pay for them through our taxes but most clubs collect their own dues from members and the use of a public library should not be free for their committee work.
    Why not host a volunteer group that would work in the library on those proposed closed days. The salaried people would be off and you would not have to pay the volunteer group. Have those organizations who are using the library for their meetings be those volunteers who staff on Sundays and Mondays from 1300-1700.

  2. Has any consideration been given as to how the library system could become a revenue generator? How about charging a nominal fee such as $25 for rental of meeting space, using the meeting space for public concerts and other arts programs and charge a nominal fee such as $5 for people to attend, how about having a robust schedule of guest speakers that people would consider paying for again at a nominal fee, how about having a mommy and me program or an arts program or a music program for little tots or having a childrens concert like “Tubby the Tuba” which would introduce children to musical instruments, or a theater performance for little ones, etc. I have so many more ideas that could generate revenue for the library system and add tremendous value to the community as well. It is time for our law makers and city council members to start thinking outside the box instead of the same old, same old ideas – cut, cut, cut, cut.

  3. Thanks for your questions! City ordinance requires our services to be free; federal and state rules limit our ability to charge for certain services. At the city level, all income or revenue generated by the library must be returned to the City’s General Revenue Fund unless otherwise specified. Increasing fees would raise revenue for the City but would not directly offset library operating costs. On the state and federal level, charging for services would affect the library’s eligibility for funding in a number of state and federal grants and programs.

    1. “At the city level, all income or revenue generated by the library must be returned to the City’s General Revenue Fund unless otherwise specified. Increasing fees would raise revenue for the City but would not directly offset library operating costs.”

      It is time for some change if this is true. May people would not mind paying for something they use. Most of the time it is those who don’t use this resource that do not seem to care.

  4. At a time when the economic situation is so poor, many folks have turned to reading for their primary source of entertainment – that is actually a good thing that has come out of the recession. However if we curtail library hours and curtail acquisition of new books, we will be taking away this important source of enjoyment for our seniors in particular. I’m not sure it would be possible to implement the suggestion to allow volunteers to staff the library without any regular staff present, but I would bet that there are many of us who would volunteer for tasks such as shelving books, reading shelves, checking in books – etc – things that don’t require a lot of skill but could free up staff for those tasks such as cataloging, staffing the information desk, etc that require much more skill.

  5. Budget cuts are difficult and everyone will be affected. There should be some way to set up a Foundation for the Libraries, which I feel are invaluable to many, so that private donations could be received which go directly to the Library Budget while at the same time not allowing The City or County to then off-set with dwindling revenues to the Library until of unless the Foundation funds reach a certain limit.

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