The North Bend Eagle


 

Library chart

 

Library wants more funds to keep pace with peers

by Nathan Arneal
Published 9/25/13

According to a study by the Nebraska Library Commission, the North Bend Public Library has a much smaller budget than its peers, and groups of library representatives want to see that changed.

Library director Amy Williams and several members of the library board attended the Sept. 17 North Bend City Council meeting to discuss the situation.

During the 2011-2012 fiscal year, the North Bend received $36,591 from the city, not including payroll. That figure is $16,671 below the average of its peers, a difference that will serve as a strike against the North Bend library as it goes through the accreditation process of the Nebraska Library Commission. That process, which occurs every three years, is done on a point basis that compares libraries to peer institutions serving similar population bases. Many different factors are considered.

“In some cases we’re doing well, and in some cases we’re doing not so well,” Williams said. “It was a surprise to me and I think the (library) board to look at those areas and see how far behind we were.”

On a scale of 250 total points, the minimum to be accredited at the lowest “bronze” level is 175 points. Currently, the North Bend library sits at 165 points. However, Williams said she is confident the North Bend library can find the 10 additional points it needs in the NLC’s point rubric to maintain accreditation.

If a library does not earn accreditation, it loses state aid and the ability to apply for most grants. Last year, grants paid for about $4,000 worth of training for the local library staff. Accreditation is also strongly recommended to be eligible for the E-Rate program, a federal program that pays 60 percent of the library’s phone and internet bills.

“If we don’t fund it on the front end and we end up losing accreditation,” Williams said, “we may end up funding it on the back end somehow.”
Williams said she knows a sudden $15,000 jump in the library’s budget it not realistic, but she said if it can be increased 3 to 5 percent each year, then progress can be shown when the next accreditation cycle comes up in three years.

Any budget increase would likely go toward outreach programming, Williams said, rather expanding the library’s collection, which is adequate.

Library board member Dan Watts said increased participation in library programs would help earn points toward accreditation.

“Where we don’t get many people to come to our programs, so we’re hoping that with an outreach-type situation maybe she goes to a day care,” Watts said. “Instead of having three kids come (to the library), you can go to the day care where there’s 15 kids. Those number help you get a few more points, and that’s just helping us reach the (lowest ) bronze level of accreditation.”

One area the accreditation report shows North Bend exceeding its peers is in the number of hours it is open. The North Bend library is open 35 hours a week, while its peers average 29.6 hours per week.

Williams said a traffic study of library users shows that hours could be reduced. The library is currently open to 7 p.m. twice a week and open at 10 a.m. twice a week. Records show that the library gets very little traffic over the noon hour and after 5:30 p.m. As a result, Williams suggested that the library look at being open 1-6 Monday through Thursday and 1-5 on Friday. She also suggested having at least two librarians on duty for after-school hours.

“Part of the traffic flow we’ve been seeing is that after school we get nailed (with people),” Williams said. “That’s to be expected. That’s what we’re there for. We want that. But having one pair of eyes there to cover all that activity is not working. We’ve seen things disappear.”

Watts said the board would also really like to see the librarians’ salaries raised. The North Bend library’s average wage of $9.50 per hour ranked 23rd out of the 30 peer institutions compared. Williams said a higher wage could attract more qualified employees that would save the city money in the long run.

“There is so much technology that we have to know,” Williams said. “If you hire somebody who is willing to work at $9 an hour who maybe doesn’t know all the technology, they’re going to be calling our tech support guy, who works at $90 an hour, a lot more often. That’s just the reality of today. So again you kind of have to think, ‘Am I going to pay for it on this end, or am I going to pay for it on that end?’”

The city council agreed that it would like to see more programs and more people using the library, but they caution that the funds for a budget increase may not be there.

“Part of our problem is that we are levying everything we can levy,” councilman Kevin Ferguson said. “So if we are going to increase your budget we have to take it away from something else.”

Councilman Tim Blackmon said with the new library building being open just one year, he would like to see more data on expenses incurred by the new building before making changes to the budget.

City Clerk Theresa Busse pointed out that the library has about $100,000 in its savings. That money is not reflected in the numbers the Library Commission is looking at. Busse said if the numbers could be altered to reflect the library’s savings, it wouldn’t be so far behind its peers.

“To the tax payers of North Bend, when we already know you’ve got $100,000 sitting there, and the auditorium or the park have nothing, it’s hard for us to justify giving the library more money,” Busse said. “Somehow we need to get your savings to show up on your report.”

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