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Thursday, July 07, 2011

Background; Presentation of Eager Library to Evansville City 11/9/2010

Eager Free Public Library Board of Trustees’ Presentation to Evansville City Council – 11/9/2010

The Eager Free Public Library belongs to the Arrowhead Library System (ALS), comprising the seven public libraries serving Rock County – Janesville, Beloit, Clinton, Milton, Orfordville, Edgerton and Evansville (EFPL). Each year ALS issues a comprehensive report to its members, using data collected from each and showing comparisons among them.

The table below shows historical data, 2004 to 2010, from ALS annual reports and City of Evansville (City) budget data.

Year Municipal Budget
For EFPL Municipal Per/Capita Support EFPL/ALS Ratio
of Support
2004 $147K $33.41 $39.78 0.84
2005 $173K $37.14 $40.65 0.92
2006 $181K $36.87 $41.40 0.89
2007 $187K $38.15 $41.41 0.92
2008 $186K $37.88 $43.61 0.87
2009 $186K $37.61 $46.70 0.81
2010 $187K $37.?? Est ? ?
6 yr Avg $36.84 $42.26 0.87

The City’s budget for EFPL rose (though at a decreasing rate) for four years, but has been essentially flat since 2007. Also note that, because of Evansville’s population increase, its per/capita (p/c) support has been nearly flat since 2005. The average p/c support for all seven ALS libraries is also shown. It is clear that the City’s p/c support has been consistently lower than the other six libraries in the system. Since 2004, ALS libraries’ average p/c support has risen steadily, while EFPL’s peaked in 2007 and has declined since.

Rock County also appropriates money for EFPL, since we serve surrounding townships. About 33% of the EFPL’s circulation is to those townships. The County contribution depends on: a) the size of the City’s library appropriation and b) the percentage of EFPL circulation to patrons from other townships. The County’s appropriation is roughly 25% of the City’s. So, the bigger the City appropriation, the more Rock County kicks in. The converse is also true.

For 2009, the last year of ALS data, the City budgeted $37.61/person for EFPL; the ALS average was $46.70. The difference is $9.09. Evansville’s current population is about 5,000. If EFPL were funded by the City at the ALS average, its 2009 budget would have been about $45K higher -- $232K not $186K. We have a long way to go just to rise to average.

In 2007, ALS instituted a new system for sharing materials among its members. This “RockCat” system has greatly increased the sharing of resources and has benefited EFPL patrons greatly. However, with the benefits come additional responsibilities. Each library in ALS agrees to purchase new materials each year for its collection and to share them with other ALS libraries, in an amount determined by averaging the previous three years’ purchases. ALS recently informed EFPL that it was about $10K behind on its acquisitions responsibilities for 2010. (We also learned that we had been behind for 2009, though ALS is not expecting us to make that up.) As the direct result of too few of our own purchases, EFPL patrons have been borrowing many more books from other ALS libraries than EFPL has been loaning to them. We’re dead last in our loan-to-borrow ratio among the 7 libraries at 0.59. Beloit has an l/b ratio of 1.75 and Clinton’s is 1.42. EFPL just doesn’t own enough books, DVD’s, periodicals, etc. to meet our patrons’ needs.

The Board needed to remedy this quickly and started the Buy a Book campaign. We also reduced library hours until the end of 2010. These emergency efforts have been successful, thankfully, but we can’t raise operating money this way every year in the future. As we’ve learned in talking with potential donors, taxpayers expect the City of Evansville to support its library with public funds. Without increasing our 2011 budget, EFPL just can’t meet next year’s ALS obligations.

As noted above, if the City were funding EFPL at the ALS average, its annual City budget would now be some $45K larger than the current tentative figure. We know it is unrealistic to ask for all that money at once. But we do urge you to appropriate a significant fraction of that $45K now, before the budget is finalized. We estimate that we need a minimum of $10,000 more to scrape by on acquisitions alone in 2011. Given that other operating costs may continue to rise,
we respectfully request that the Council increase the EFPL budget by at least $13,000 for 2011.

We’ll continue to be frugal, of course, and we intend to finish 2011 under budget -- if this request is granted. Over the long haul, we expect to ask for further increases in coming years, to ensure the City supports EFPL at an adequate level to serve its patrons and the ALS system to which we belong.

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