Friday, February 26, 2016

Top Three Themes of Recent Referenda Buzz

As the March 15 election approaches, Library staff have recognized three recurring themes in the questions asked most frequently:
·         Branches
·         Budgeting for Capital Replacement
·         Technology
One of the first decisions made in the planning process was to pursue only single location options. Cost was the number one factor in the decision to pursue only single location options. In Illinois, 60-70% of a public library’s annual operating expense goes to staffing. Staffing a second facility would substantially increase annual operating expenses. The Library Board of Trustees began the planning process with the express intention of developing an efficient and cost effective plan that would significantly improve library service to meet the needs of the community for the foreseeable future. A vehicle would be needed to move materials and supplies between buildings, another cost. Other operational costs are also increased by operating multiple facilities, such as maintenance on building systems, utilities, landscaping and snow removal.

The current location is near the geographic center of the Library’s service area. At the proposed 72,000 sq ft size and serving 75,000 people, the Library District would reach the national average for public libraries to deploy a branch facility. The proposed building would maximize the downtown site, leaving deployment of a branch as a strategy to meet future needs. A book return and pick up locker service point could be used as an interim solution to meet more immediate needs. I posted about the decision to pursue a single location on my blog almost a year ago:

Budgeting for Capital Replacement
When the Library expanded from 2,700 to 27,000 sq ft in 1990, the operating budget remained the same. A referendum to operate the expanded Library failed in 1993. In 1994, 50% of the Library staff were laid off, Library hours were cut from over 60 per week to 48 and the budget frozen. This deficit in service was only restored by the building boom in Plainfield. Per capita support of the Library has not kept pace with inflation. In today’s dollars, 1990 per capita support would be $51.99. In 2015, the Library received $44.93 per capita.

In the early 2000’s, the Library Board of Trustees made the decision that bonds for expansion and capital replacement would be sought when the 1990 building bonds were paid off. Replacing the existing bonds at that time with new bonds would balance meeting the community’s immediate demand for service with long term replacement costs. The 2009 referendum failed.

Since 2010, the Library Board has spent more than $1 million on capital repairs and replacements to keep the current building operational. In 2011, KJWW Engineering began a full evaluation of the building and its systems. Their report cited over $2.1 million in capital repairs and replacement to keep the building operational in the long term, without addressing bringing it up to current code. A Long Range Budget Plan was approved in 2013 to provide for capital repairs and replacements. This included budget freezes in some lines, reorganization of staff including elimination of five positions and reductions in hours. To keep the current building operational in the long term, further cuts will be needed if the referenda fail.

The way we live has changed drastically in the last 25 years. The proliferation of technology has increased demand for library service, not reduced it. Since 1990, the number of questions answered at the Library increased 2,500%, from 2,236 to over 56,000. The number of people attending Library programs increased 2,100%, from 2,214 to over 50,000. 21st century library services reflect the changing world we live in, utilizing the latest technology and responding to the changing needs of our community. These services include technology support, hands-on individual instruction, loaning devices and teaching software applications. The current Library building is not designed for 21st century library services.

More information and documentation of the planning process can be found at: Visit the Library to view the 3D model on display near the Check Out Desk. View renderings of the proposed exterior on bulletin boards over the book return, near the elevator on ground level and in the lower level lobby.

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