Thursday, April 29, 2010

Employee Compensation is Key to Responsible Budgeting, Library Style.

Between this article and all the time I have recently spent on the budget, I've been thinking about employee compensation. On the local level, the Library has struggled with equitable pay and keeping up with demand for services. With personnel as the largest expense for Library, and indeed for any service organization, it is critical to keep employment costs under control. Increasing demand for services makes that a difficult proposition.

While the Library's circulation has quadrupled in the last decade, the number of staff has doubled. Each employee is asked to do more every year. As we find innovative ways to use technology to help relieve workload, management and oversight of those technologies continues to add to employees' duties. Just as in the private sector, as companies downsize, maintaining employee productivity is not an option - productivity must increase to meet demand. Unfortunately for the Library, increased productivity does not mean increased revenue. Only voter support of a referendum can do that. Increased revenue from new homes and businesses coming onto the property tax rolls only works only during a boom economy. Eventually, as now, the boom ends, the revenue stream becomes flat while employer costs continue to rise. But for libraries, the boom in use begins when economic crisis hits.

A few years ago, the Library was hemorrhaging employees to the school district and private sector because base pay had not kept pace with the job market. When this was addressed by the Library's Board of Trustees, they examined both public and private sector jobs to help them determine an equitable base pay structure and benefits package for the Library. Creation of a compensation system that benchmarks base pay to a community standard and recognizes employee merit in alternating years, the Board of Trustees struck a balance in employee compensation that helps control cost while allowing the Library to attract and retain good employees.

While federal and state government operate with deficit spending, local governments like the Library do not. Today, the Library has no debt since the 1990 building bonds were paid off earlier this year. When building bonds are issued on the local level, voter-supported referenda ensure the revenue stream to fulfill those obligations. Pension obligations are met every year through a pension fund that operates responsibly. Your locally-elected Board of Trustees would not tolerate a deficit budget. The Library operates within its means, given to the Library by you, the taxpayer. For this Library, employee compensation that is fair to both the employee and the taxpayer is the basis of responsible budgeting, meeting today's demand for service without spending tomorrow's tax dollar.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

American Dream Starts @ Your Library

Plainfield Public Library District is one of the seventy public libraries in 21 states selected by the American Library Association (ALA) to receive $5,000 grants as part of “The American Dream Starts @ your library®” literacy project. This initiative is funded by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation. For more information about the grant, click here.

Assistant Library Director Lisa Pappas and Head of Outreach Services Ceil Carey wrote the grant application to secure additional funding to support the Library's programs for adult English language learners. While our local schools help the children of our resident immigrants hone their English language skills, there is no single organization dedicated to supporting our adult English language learners. The Library is bridging that gap, just as we bridge the "digital divide," providing technology resources for our residents who cannot afford to have access to computers and the Internet in their homes. Through cooperation and partnerships with other organizations, the Library can help connect these residents to resources and opportunities for these residents to achieve their American Dream.

Thank you to Dollar General and the American Library Association for giving us the means to help our adult English language learners!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Drafting the FY11 Budget

It's a good news/bad news situation.

The good news: the Library is doing 20% more business! We're up double-digits across all measures for use statistics, about 20% overall. More library cards, more PC uses, more questions answered, more people attending programs, more more more...

Then comes the bad news. With just 1% more money, we need to keep up with demand that has hit double-digit increases over the prior year for a 10 years in a row! Unlike a business that receives more money when business is good, our income is not tied to how much use the Library is getting. Most budget lines will be frozen at their FY10 level.

It is not as bad as it could be. Unlike many of our neighbors, our Library is not facing a huge deficit or layoffs or the like. By the same token, it is a challenge to keep up with the demand for services that our residents are making. Conservative fiscal management and planning have served us well, helping us to keep up and make do through years of the increases in use outstripping any increases in funding.

Bottom line: Fiscal Year 2011 will not have cuts to services, staffing and hours at the Plainfield Public Library. In these times, that's about as good as it gets.

Monday, April 5, 2010

New Head of Youth Services Joins Staff

Veronica Schwartz De Fazio joined the Library staff today as Head of Youth Services!

Veronica is an experienced department head, having served in the same position at the Des Plaines Public Library for nearly a decade. As a participant in Synergy: the Illinois Library Leadership Initiative and on committees at the regional and statewide levels, she has demonstrated leadership skills. Her energy, enthusiasm and professionalism make her a great fit for our Library team.

Welcome, Veronica! We're happy to have you with us.