Library board rejects reportThe board of the Hudson Area Joint Library voted 6-2 Monday night to reject an uncomplimentary assessment of the library completed by the director of the Indianhead Federated Library System.
By: Randy Hanson, Hudson Star-Observer
The board of the Hudson Area Joint Library voted 6-2 Monday night to reject an uncomplimentary assessment of the library completed by the director of the Indianhead Federated Library System.
And Library Board President Jim O’Connor came under fire from board members and the top elected officials in three of the four municipalities that operate the library for publicizing the assessment report.
“We’ve got to stop making these comparisons, Jim, and run this library,” Dave Ostby, a town of Hudson supervisor and library board member, told O’Connor after the vote.
“Let’s just quit making these silly comparisons,” Ostby continued. “Let’s just move on. Let’s see what we can do to enhance this facility.”
The 42-page “Hudson Area Joint Library Assessment Report” by John Thompson was widely disapproved of by municipal officials who received it in mid-July.
The major conclusion of the report was that the Hudson public library – jointly operated by the city of Hudson, towns of Hudson and St. Joseph, and village of North Hudson – is significantly underfunded and undersized compared to libraries that serve populations of roughly the same size.
Hudson Mayor Dean Knudson at the City Council’s Aug. 3 meeting blasted the report for what he said were misleading comparisons. Knudson urged the library board to reject the report.
Knudson reiterated his opinions about the report at the library board meeting.
St. Joseph Town Chair Theresa Johnson, sitting in for Dan Gavin, the town’s regular representative on the library board, also strongly criticized the report. North Hudson Village President George Klein denounced it, too.
“I’m dismayed that you would go to the time to do this, and start with the wrong numbers,” Johnson said, addressing O’Connor. She said the underreported square footage of the existing library used in the report called the whole report into question.
In his comments to the board prior to the vote, O’Connor allowed that there were three problems with the report: 1. The square footage number, 2. Three of the communities that Hudson was compared to that had significantly larger populations, and 3. Some recommendations that were “too ambitious” for Hudson considering its situation.
O’Connor said Jeff Zais, a member of the library friends group, had recalculated the library square footage and found it to be 12,062 square feet. Thompson used the figure given to him of 8,139 square feet.
O’Connor provide new numbers on population, square footage, book volumes, annual circulation, staff numbers, cost per book circulated and government funding comparing libraries that Knudson had used in his comparison.
The result still was that the Hudson library compared poorly to libraries in like-size communities, he said.
O’Connor’s figures (based on 2007 Wisconsin public library data) showed the Hudson library with 51,712 volumes compared to an average for the group of 74,743.
Per capita government spending on the Hudson library was $19.99, he said, compared to an average of $29.71.
The comparisons upset library board members Marion Shaw, Alan Burchill and Ostby – as well as the municipal leader in attendance.
Shaw made the motion to reject the Thompson report. It was seconded by Burchill. Board members Ostby, Johnson, Dan Koch and Mike Hipsher joined Burchill and Ostby in voting to reject the report.
O’Connor and city representative Sarah Smith opposed the motion.
“I think it contains a lot of good information,” O’Connor said of the report.
On a voice vote, the board asked Thompson to revise his report using new numbers. Shaw voted against the action.
A majority of board members also rejected O’Connor’s recommendation for a 5 percent increase in the library budget for 2010.
It was suggested that he submit options for no increase, a 1-percent increase and a 2-percent increase in the budget.
O’Connor said he’ll have the budget proposals ready for the September board meeting.
The board also discussed closing the library on Saturdays and opening an hour later on weekdays to give staff more time to process books and other materials.
No conclusion on the hours issue was reached.