For 3 years, it ran in the Greeley Tribune. Since then, it has run in various subsidiaries of the Douglas County News Press. I still have most of my columns in digital format.
For many years, I only gave myself one rule: try to work the word "library" into every piece. My intent was to think in public about just what librarianship means at the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st.
There have been many advantages for me. I found that putting library plans out in front of the public, and getting feedback about them, helped me make better decisions. Sometimes, I found that it was very difficult for me to describe those plans or policies -- the kind of thing that makes me realize that they might not be good ideas after all. The weekly discipline of explaining my profession to the public keeps me more mindful, more honest. It also has provided steady visibility for the library and its issues.
June 11, 2009 - money matters
This week I'd like to do a roundup of some library financial issues.
First, effective June 1, we doubled the fines for overdue materials. We continue to offer a few days grace for such materials -- and if you give us your email address, we'll even remind you to bring things back the day before they are due.
In brief, fines for most materials went from a nickel a day to a dime a day. Our fines do max out for most materials at $5 per item. While this probably won't be a big money maker for us, we hope it will encourage people to help us keep our materials moving. There's a lot of demand for them these days.
Second, before we replaced our traditional checkout system with self-check machines and automated checkin systems, we had a growing problem with repetitive motion injuries. Our staff were moving literally millions of items per year, and paying for it with their health. For the past couple of years, in addition to our self-check systems, we've initiated a variety of safety measures. I'm pleased to announce that we just got a dividend from our workers compensation insurance company in the amount of $34,000 -- the largest check they have ever written for the largest reduction in claims they have ever seen. Our rates are going down, too. That's good news not only for our pocketbook, but for our employees.
Third, to avoid a crisis due to flat or falling property tax revenues over the next few years, the Douglas County Libraries initiated a hiring freeze, with the goal of reducing positions by attrition. Our goal is to save half a million dollars by the end of 2009. From January through April, we reduced our payroll by almost 7 full time jobs, for a savings of nearly $240,000 per year.
When one of our branch managers retired (Patt Paul of Parker), we moved another manager (Lone Tree's Sharon Nemechek) to replace her. Sharon will be tasked with remaking the internal space of the library to improve its performance, something she knows a lot about. Meanwhile, we realigned some staff responsibilities, asking several of the remaining managers to double up: putting the Neighborhood Library at Roxborough under Dorothy Hargrove (the manager of the Highlands Ranch Library); Louviers under Sheila Kerber (the manager of the Philip S. Miller Library in Castle Rock); and moving Peg Hooper (manager of these former "satellite" libraries) to the Neighborhood Library at Lone Tree, where she will also administer a new service location (see below).
I know that many other businesses are doing the same kind of trimming and reorganization. But the library is making these cuts even as our business is increasing by double digits.
Fourth, I'm pleased to report that the library Board of Trustees recently signed a three year lease to open a small (2,500 square foot) storefront library in the Village Square at Castle Pines this fall. This new service location is made possible by the truly extraordinary support of the Castle Pines community. Due to significant donations by the property owner, as well as independent fundraising by the community at large, this new library will actually cost us less than we currently spend on our aging bookmobile. We'll retire the bookmobile when the new library opens. The new library will be staffed by existing employees.
So not only will we save money, but we'll also offer more materials to the 10,000 residents of the area, and provide children's storytimes to a community that has long been eager for them.
What happens at the end of three years? That, of course, will depend on the finances of the district at that time, and that's an issue that will affect not only Castle Pines.
But in the meantime, I hope the citizens of Douglas County can see that we remain thoughtful stewards of public money.
For more information on donations to the Castle Pines Library, please contact Margie Woodruff, firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 303-688-7638.
LaRue's Views are his own.