Monday, November 23, 2009

Cut Expenses Not Libraries

City Council has banded together with State Representatives to fill the immediate funding shortfall for the library and keep all our city libraries open.

Clearly, there still remains a problem of rampant spending amongst our libraries, so let's see Ravenstahl and company stick to their guns and perform an audit of their budget. Their total expenditures are over $23 Million. Nationally, average library funding per capita is $40.49 which should translate to an expected $12.8 Million in Pittsburgh. Why are we so far over average per capita spending? Let's see an audit which reigns in the spending while keeping libraries open.

My first suggestion?
Library Cards currently expire every 2 years. The next time you're at the library after your card expires you have to fill out paperwork which librarians then have to enter into the system. The Department of Motor Vehicles learned long ago that less frequent applications means less expense. Shouldn't my library card last as long as my driver's license (especially considering I used my driver's license as proof of my address)?

My second suggestion?
It's not pretty, but cut some of the staff. There were at least 3 staff working at the miniscule South Side library this past Saturday. When I was a high school student, I volunteered at the local library to shelve books. How about the libraries form a partnership with local high schools to get volunteers to take some of these tasks and learn the Dewey Decimal System? It's nice to have trained librarians milling about to answer questions, but mostly they just give me snarky looks while I check out books.

Any other frustrating ways you've seen the library waste money?


Anthony said...

I agree with most of your suggestions. However i am just one of the personal cuts the libraries have made.

Jami Broom said...

How about rent? Pittsburgh's population has been decreasing for years, so maybe some libraries could consolidate, not by neighborhood, but by space. This could go along with cutting some staff.

Also, why don't they consider adding some fee-for-service programs? Charge people minimal fees to attend events and seminars that are normally free. The could charge other organizations to use their facilities.

Also, do a better job of marketing to get more people in the door. do they have a twitter account? does their website send alerts about new book releases? (i don't know; i'm asking)

The bottom line is that they need to do a better job of diversifying funding sources.

Jami Broom said...

Maybe they could add little coffee shops in each library. i love to read with a coffee and croissant in hand.

illyrias said...

Jami, Unfortunately, the problem isn't getting people in the door. If anything, they have too many people in the door. More people = more expenses. When I stopped by my library this Saturday, it was packed with every single computer in use.

By the way, the Carnegie Library in Oakland does have a coffee shop and comfortable couches. It's a great place to spend time in.

Justin Kownacki said...

It's tough to guess where Pittsburgh libraries can save money until we know how they're spending that money in the first place. If Pittsburgh's libraries are budgeted at 60% more than they should be, per capita, then it's going to take more than a few nickel-and-dime changes to fix the system.

Jami Broom said...

Maybe your library is always full, but do you think they ALL are? Mine isn't.

And that is partially true, but I don't think more people in the door always leads to more expenses, especially if they have fee-for-service programs in place.

Bram Reichbaum said...

You can request books that aren't at your own library branch, and have them delivered to it and put on reserve for you. That always struck me as a tremendous luxury -- them ferrying these books constantly back and forth across the city for people. How about a $1.50 delivery surcharge per book for these special requests? I wouldn't mind.

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