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January 5, 2017 | Library Director

Hello Barnes County, I stated in my last column that much of my reading is composed of emails and professional literature. Just this week I read an article from Australia which discussed the elimination of 63 positions from national cultural organizations, several of which were librarian positions, due to budget cuts. I would guess that many people who are not in the library field are unaware that many of the cultural institutions around the world; museums, art galleries, musical organizations, and similar, employee librarians to collect, catalog, and curate their print and digital collections. Because of the highly specialized nature of those collections the librarians themselves become important information resources for researchers, members of the press, and other staff members. Several of you are probably now asking, why are staff cuts at cultural institutions in Australia relevant to our library? I think many of you know the library will have a reduction in funding for 2017. Because of this fact I had to adjust our budget accordingly. A library budget is a pretty straightforward affair, comprised of four main spending areas. The first is operations and maintenance which is comprised of utilities, building and grounds maintenance, and similar costs to keep this big box open and running. It also includes the yearly cost of the Integrated Library System, internet and phone, maintenance and any necessary annual software costs for our computers and network, and materials processing and office supplies. Operations and maintenance is pretty much a fixed cost year to year and generally speaking nothing there can be cut. We can temporarily defer maintenance but in the long run this is a bad strategy, particularly with an older building, since repairs cost a whole lot more than preventive maintenance. I did take out the whole $5000 budgeted the past couple year for interior and exterior maintenance with the hope that the work we have done in the past couple years will tide us over for a year or two. If necessary, we can tap into our limited capital improvement funds but that is definitely not the best course of action for the future. Our second spending area is programming. The biggest part of our programming budget is dedicated to Summer Reading which I had to cut from $2500 down to $500. If you, your children, or your grandchildren have been participating in SRP the past couple years you know all the great
programs, games, and events we have been offering are “free”. I use free in quotes because the children, teens, and adults who participate pay nothing to do so because the library is paying the bills from our budget. Participation is only dependent on the desire to have fun, not
the ability to pay. We will talk more about summer reading in the future but just be aware if we want to offer the same types of high quality programs the community is going to have to step up and give us some support. Our third spending area is collection. That’s all the new books,
audiobooks, and DVDs everyone has been enjoying the past couple years. I refuse to cut acquisitions for two reasons; first all the new stuff is driving circulation and bring new people into the library. Second, when libraries start cutting acquisitions that’s pretty much a sign the
library is starting to die. Yes, it’s that serious and no, I’m not being overly dramatic. The library bought 3218 new and replacement items in 2016 and pretty much everyone who uses the library comments on how happy they are with all the new stuff. Our final spending area is
personnel. Now you see the relevance to my use of the article about Australian institutions above. I cut $2000 for conferences and staff training right off the bat. I could do this because I just attended a national library conference this fall and don’t have to do so again for three years
to stay in compliance with state standards for public libraries. My only other place to cut the budget was in the number of hours everyone works per week. We run staff pretty lean with very little overlap right now. A couple staff members, knowing our budget woes, volunteered to work
less hours. Less hours means a pay cut and how many people do you know would volunteer to take a pay cut, particularly in light of the fact library staff is underpaid in relation to other similar positions in the area. Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough and I had to make the very difficult
decision to eliminate one position and cut hours for a couple others. It might be only four or five hours a week less but the reality is a $200-250 pay cut per month for staff members who really can’t afford it. Does anyone now wonder why I have been upset, and stressed out for the past
few months? Yes, I’m the director and part of my job is to make the hard decisions but sometime being the boss really stinks. It really is the people who make a library, both the staff and our patrons. Quote of the day; a library without librarians is a just a shed full of books.

My door is always open, even when it’s closed.

Upcoming closures: The library will be closed Monday January 16th for MLK Day.

Pardon the mess: The painters are here and the whole inside of the building (other than the Mary E Fischer multipurpose room which was painted two years ago) is getting a new coat of paint for the first time in about twenty years. If you like what we did with the stamped tin on
the outside you are going to love what we did above the circulation desk upstairs.

Where are the front doors? Many of you have asked and more are you are wondering what happened to the old main doors. Local wood artist Dean Pedersen is rebuilding and refinishing them for us this winter. Both doors were literally coming apart which necessitated a major redo. It’s a big project but the doors should be done and reinstalled this spring.

Please stop in and pick up a calendar of events. We have a jam packed January calendar of programs and you don’t want to miss any of them.

The library board meets the second Tuesday of the month at 5:15pm in the Mary E Fischer multi-purpose room.