Library will be closed Mondays to save moneyThe Hudson Area Library will be closed two days of the week in 2013 because of tax support that has remained flat for four years in a row, coupled with rising expenses. Beginning in January, the library will be closed Mondays, in addition to Sundays.
By: Randy Hanson, Hudson Star-Observer
The Hudson Area Library will be closed two days of the week in 2013 because of tax support that has remained flat for four years in a row, coupled with rising expenses.
Beginning in January, the library will be closed Mondays, in addition to Sundays, the one day of the week it has been closed in the past.
Barbara Peterson, president of the Joint Library Board, and Library Director Linda Donaldson sat down with the Star-Observer last week to talk about the steps being taken to operate within the $849,416 budget approved by the library board at its November meeting.
The pair also wanted to counter false information being circulated that the library is closing totally.
“The library is not closing. We will not be open on Mondays in 2013 (as well as Sundays). But we will be open the rest of the week,” Peterson reiterated.
Another change in hours is that the library will open at 10 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday. In 2012, the library opened later (at 1 p.m.) on Tuesdays.
The net effect is that the library will be open 43 hours a week in 2013, seven fewer than the 50 hours a week it was open in 2012.
Donaldson and the board have taken other steps to offset the impact of the tight budget and reduced hours.
The cataloging of books and other materials will be outsourced to the Indianhead Federated Library System to allow the library staff to concentrate on providing service to library users.
“It’s just more efficient to use the staff in a customer service position, instead of sitting in a back room -- especially with the lean staffing I have here,” Donaldson said.
The materials purchased by the Hudson library will be shipped to the Indianhead offices in Eau Claire, where they will be labeled and entered in the library’s database before being sent to Hudson.
The staff will receive training on technology and using the library’s database to assist patrons in finding information and materials.
Adult programming funds are being used to provide workshops on using e-readers and social media.
“We’re trying to make the budget work, and to provide the very best service that is possible with the resources that are available,” Peterson said.
The effort is to maximize the resources and make the most effective use possible of the library staff.
“Actually, in the end this will provide development opportunities for our staff,” Peterson said. “Their jobs can become more interesting, more challenging -- in a good way, intellectually challenging.”
The board also has approved Donaldson’s proposal to start a rental collection of books and DVDs.
Patrons will have the option of paying a small fee for popular titles, which will stay with the Hudson library and not circulate in the wider Indianhead System of 53 public libraries in 10 west central Wisconsin counties.
For every rental copy, the library will have a one that is free to circulate in the system.
“I see this as a successful venture,” Donaldson said.
Peterson said the idea is for it to become a self-funded collection. The rental fees will be used to buy popular new materials, so people can get them more quickly.
She said the Ramsey County, Minn., Library had a rental collection when she was on its board some 15 years ago.
In addition, the library board is looking into the possibility of leasing second and multiple copies of some new books.
The floor load limits of the library building prevent the collection from being expanded at this point, so returning multiple copies of a book to a company after using them for a year might make sense, Peterson said.
The reason the library is reducing its hours boils down to the fact that the four municipalities that operate it haven’t increased their funding for it in four years, Peterson and Donaldson indicated.
The $629,024 the library will receive from the four municipalities in 2013 is roughly the same as when the library was located in the former Hudson Municipal Building at 901 Fourth St.
Meanwhile, the library’s expenses keep rising.
In 2013, the library will pay $130,000 for heat, electricity and janitorial service at the city-owned building at 701 First St. where it is now located. That is a 6.6 percent increase from the $122,000 it paid in occupancy charges this year.
“It’s growing, and our budget isn’t growing,” Donaldson said of the occupancy cost.
Public libraries aren’t supposed to pay rent, according to state law, but they can be charged for occupancy costs like heat and electricity.
Residents pay more
While municipal tax support for the library hasn’t risen, the amount Hudson-area residents pay for library services will jump in 2013.
That’s because municipal spending on the library doesn’t match the county’s library levy, making property owners subject to the county tax, too.
City property owners as a whole will pay a county library levy of $277,000 for 2013, in addition to the $281,174 in city taxes going to the Hudson Area Library.
Peterson wanted it known that none of the additional money will go to the Hudson library -- or any other library in the county. It will lower the county library tax for property owners in the other municipalities subject to the tax.
“The next result is that the taxes for the rest of the residents of St. Croix County will go down. People are sometimes confused. They think that the money will go to other libraries, and that’s not the case,” Peterson emphasized.
The purpose of the county levy is to reimburse libraries for lending books and materials to residents of municipalities that don’t have a library. The St. Croix County Board has set the rate of reimbursement at 100 percent of the cost of serving nonresidents. In the past, it was 70 percent.
Peterson said the library board has gone on record in support of the 100-percent reimbursement rate because of the uncertainty over the future organization of the Hudson library.
The three non-city members -- the towns of Hudson and St. Joseph, and the village of North Hudson -- have each served written notice that they intend to withdraw from the joint library at the end of 2013 unless there is a change in the funding formula.
The other member municipalities would like the required level of funding for the joint library, in order to be exempt from the county library levy, to be returned to 70 percent. They have said they would stay in the joint library if action is taken.
Peterson reported that area state legislators are working on legislation that would allow joint libraries to be funded at a lower level than municipal libraries.
“Exactly what the impact would be, we don’t know,” she said. “They are in the midst of formulating that legislation.”
The State Legislature’s removal in 2010 of a requirement that libraries be funded to the average of the past three years also adds uncertainty to the future of the Hudson library, Peterson said.
While the partner municipalities have chosen to maintain the current level of funding for the library for four straight years, there is nothing to prevent them from lowering it in 2014, she said.
Because of the uncertainty of future funding, the library board is giving serious consideration to requesting the Hudson City Council to hold a referendum asking voters for an increase in the city levy in order to provide more funding for the library.
Increasing city funding for the library to the level of the county library levy would make city residents exempt from the county library tax.
“Based on many factors, we believe a referendum would be successful,” Peterson said. “There are many indications of strong support in the city of Hudson for this library.”
She pointed to the library’s 2012 Bridge the Gap fundraising campaign as evidence of the support. The library received $28,155 in donations from supporters. After expenses were paid, it had an additional $23,520 for operations.
Peterson said the 2013 budget anticipates $25,000 in revenue from a second Bridge the Gap campaign.
The library will once again receive $15,000 from the Friends of the Hudson Area Library in 2013, and will use another $50,520 from its reserve balance for operations.
The fund balance will be down to about $180,000 by the end of 2013, Peterson said.
“This is not sustainable. If we did not have that fund balance, we would be making significantly greater cuts,” she said.
Peterson added: “The library board is not asking the community to support the best library in the state of Wisconsin. We’re asking it to provide funding that will enable us to be sustainable at a level that is greater than what it is currently. Right now we’re at the bottom. I know our municipal leaders don’t want to hear that information, but unfortunately, that is reality.”
The final quote of this story is corrected from the one that appeared in the print version of the Star-Observer. Peterson was incorrectly reported to have said the library board is not asking the county to provide the best library in the state. She actually said the library board isn't asking the "community" for the best library in the state.