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Library fund drive off to a good start

Library Director Linda Donaldson and Board President Barbara Peterson are pleased with the response to a "Bridge the Gap" fundraising drive by the Hudson Area Joint Library. So far, $24,430 has been received to support the operation of the library. Photo by Randy Hanson

The community response to a fundraising appeal from the Hudson Area Joint Library has been encouraging, according to two top library officials.

Library Board President Barbara Peterson and Library Director Linda Donaldson reported last week that $24,430 has come in so far in response to a mailing to area residents in early April.

Donations have come from 271 individuals and households, with the average contribution being just over $90.

The average was pulled up by one gift of $2,000, two gifts of $1,000, and 10 gifts of $500.

Just over half of the money ($12,795) and close to half of the donations (131) came from the city of Hudson.

The town of Hudson was the second-leading source of donations with 66 contributors giving a total of $4,190.

"We wanted to give the community an update, because the response has been so positive," said Peterson, "and also to let people know that it's not too late to be a part of this."

The "Bridge the Gap" campaign was initiated to make up for a shortfall between tax revenue for the joint library and its actual budget in recent years.

For several years, the library has been using about $60,000 annually from its reserve fund to support its operations. However, the surplus funds not needed to cover expenses will be depleted by the end of 2012, meaning the library will have to find new sources of revenue for 2013 or cut its operations.

"In fact, without this fundraiser, I think we would not have felt comfortable filling a position that is currently open," Peterson said.

The person hired for the job will concentrate on adult programming and community outreach.

Donaldson said the library, to date, has had strong children's programming, led by Children's Librarian Mary Davis, but only limited outreach to adults.

Peterson noted that the former Library Board President David Smith was actually the author of the fundraising appeal. Smith resigned from the board last December after taking a new job that required frequent travel.

"It just turns out that I was president of the board when it finally went out in early April," Peterson said of the appeal.

Peterson, who joined the library board in May 2011, is a former director of library and information services for 3M Co. She was elected president of the library board by the other members when Smith resigned.

Peterson represents the town of St. Joseph on the board. The library is jointly operated by the city of Hudson, village of North Hudson and towns of Hudson and St. Joseph.

The focus of the appeal is different than what was planned before the library moved into the city-owned building (and former corporate headquarters) at the corner of Vine and First streets. Then, the library's strategic planning committee was contemplating a campaign to raise money to buy the building.

Peterson said the new issue of bringing library tax support up to the level required by state law could end any effort to purchase the building, which is shared by the Hudson Police Department.

The library partners are talking about disbanding the joint library and reverting to a municipal library operated by the city as the most economical option for the future.

"If the library were to become a municipal library, it makes no sense for the library to buy the building," Peterson said. "Police and fire departments don't own their own buildings."

Peterson and Donaldson said the Hudson library continues to be one of the lowest-expense public libraries in the state, thanks in large part to a cadre of more than 50 volunteers who donate up to 700 hours of labor a month.

The library has 10.3 full-time-equivalent employees. There are three full-time positions (the director, children's librarian and information technology manager/associate director). Three employees work 30 hours a week, two work 20 hours a week and the rest work 10 hours a week.

Peterson said she accompanied Donaldson to a meeting of the Indianhead Federated Library System and learned that the Hudson library relies on volunteers for jobs performed by paid staff members at all the other libraries.

"It's very valuable, but volunteers come and go. And there's a cost associated with needing to continue to train volunteers," she said.

Donaldson said, "We are a very lean staff."

The library's level of funding also means it is open fewer hours per week than most libraries its size.

To make a contribution to the "Bridge the Gap Fund," send in the contribution form that arrived in the mail, along with a check made payable to the Hudson Area Joint Library. Designate the contribution for the Bridge the Gap Fund.

Donations also can be mailed without the form to: Hudson Area Joint Library, Bridge the Gap Fund, 700 First St., Hudson, WI 54016.

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

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