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Thursday, July 07, 2011

Background: Presentation by Fred Juergens to City Council 11/9/2010 at Budget Hearings

My name is Fred Juergens; I live at 401 Badger Drive in Evansville. Tonight I speak as President of the Friends of the Eager Free Public Library. The Friends organized about 15 years ago as a 501(c) (3) non-profit corporation.

Our purposes, according to our Constitution, are:
• to focus public attention on the Eager Free Public Library;
• to stimulate the use of the library's resources and services;
• to receive and encourage gifts and bequests to the library;
• to support & cooperate with the library in developing services & facilities for the community.

Accomplishing these purposes takes money. Currently we have about 180 dues-paying member-volunteers, more if you include all the family members. Much of the money we raise to accomplish our purposes comes from our annual Ice Cream Social and Auction, which kicks off the 4th of July celebration in Evansville. We also raise money through used book sales, dues, individual gifts & redemption of receipts from our Piggly Wiggly. This year we started to receive income from a small endowment invested with the Evansville Fund. Our net income that is available to provide support to EFPL, after fundraising and membership expenses are deducted, is about $4,500/year.

For years, we have used this income to support the Summer Reading Program for Evansville’s children, High School Study Nights, Family Game Nights, building gingerbread houses at Christmas time and other programs such as the recent renaissance music performance and the Hispanic Heritage Fest on the library lawn. Friends also provide the volunteers & funds to maintain the beautiful landscaping that greets library patrons each spring, summer and fall. We have bought “extra” equipment to enhance the library outreach programs; an example is the computer projector, which is used not just at the library, but also when library staff conducts programs at local nursing homes.

This year we paid for installation of a security system for the building and purchased a subscription to a computer-based language-learning program called “Mango!” Mango can be used from the home computer of any holder of an EFPL library card; you don’t have to come to the library to take advantage of this educational opportunity to learn any (or all!) of 24 different languages. All of the above fulfill our purposes as an organization.

In the past few years, however, the Friends have been asked to do more than what I consider our rightful mission. We have responded – because the need was obvious -- to requests that I think should be funded from the library’s revenue from annual city and county appropriations.

a. in 2008, we paid about $2200 to purchase additional shelving for the adult section of the library. This led to a more efficient use of the limited space on the building’s main floor.

b. in late 2009, we paid almost $1000 for books that had already been ordered, but for which there was no money, possibly due to an apparent accounting confusion. We also paid for refinishing the Main Street doors to the building; this is just normal periodic maintenance.

c. in 2010, we paid for the restoration of the original door to the library’s lower level from First Street. We paid to repair the metal hand railing on the library’s front steps. These repairs were needed for safety reasons, and we took the initiative to do them. We also paid to install lighting in the former coal-bin in the basement of the library, so that this space could be used for additional storage. Local contractors gave us a very good price, but our total out-of-pocket cost was still about $600. I think it’s fair to say that this work wouldn’t have been done this year, if we had not funded it. Deterioration would have advanced, and the future cost of repairs would likely rise significantly. Our inspection revealed more needed work on wooden trim on the old building, to maintain the integrity of this historic structure. We intend to finish these repairs next year, if we have the money.

The Friends spent money for these items because, though the need was clearly there, the library’s current budget didn’t stretch far enough. And we did them because we love the library and what it gives to Evansville and the surrounding community.

This October, we were approached to contribute to the “Buy a Book” fund the Library’s Board of Trustees had initiated. (You will hear more details from others about why this emergency appeal to the community was necessary.) The Friends responded as generously as we could. The Friends have contributed $3,000 to this fund: $1,500 outright, and another $1,500 in a challenge grant, which matched $1,500 from other donors. This has just about depleted our funds, though we’ve retained a little to fund programs until next year’s Ice Cream Social. We won’t be adding to our endowment this year, as previously anticipated.

But what about buying books for next year? The proposed 2011 library budget, no larger than 2010’s, (or 2009’s or 2008’s, by the way) won’t cover the expected costs. And the Friends cannot continue to provide the “extras” that enhance EFPL’s service to the community, if we’re asked again to spend our limited funds on the “basics”. Even if we do so, alone we can’t make up the entire projected deficit for next year. It is clear why the Trustees had to go public with fund-raising in the last month or so: the city has not funded the Library adequately for years. And yet the message from the City to the Library Director and Trustees was quite emphatic this year while drafting the coming 2011 budget: don’t even think about asking for more money.

The Friends of the Library, as tax-paying citizens of Evansville, are thinking about it. Because of our financial position and our mission to support the library, we’re thinking about it real hard. Our purpose is not to pay the library’s operating expenses. We helped to meet the emergency this year; we can’t do it next year. And we shouldn’t be expected to.

So, The Friends strongly urge the City Council to increase the library’s allocation significantly before final passage of the 2011 budget. We know money’s tight. NONETHELESS, it is obvious that the library needs additional funds to fulfill its responsibilities to the community. You and the County must provide the money to operate the library.

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