Do Less With Less; Not More.
The perceptions and beliefs of today’s information consumer will shape the use, value and impact of libraries in 2011 and beyond. As libraries’ budgets get tighter, expectations of the information consumer will only continue to expand. How can libraries balance the budget while balancing increased demand and new expectations? How will libraries fund the strategic investment that will be required to take the long view in difficult times? What library strategies, alternative services and advocacy activities will be required to best serve tomorrow’s information consumer?
Do less with less; not more. Is this the key to our library woes? My library system as well as many others nationwide and even around the world are all feeling the same pinch. This current economic downturn does not appear that it will go away any time soon. My library’s budget has been cut from year to year due to less and less revenue from property taxes. The project budget for 2011-2012 is about 1/3 of what it was in 2008. There is no way the library can run to its full capacity and keep all branches open in Miami. So what is being planned to close the gap?
There are proposals to lengthen the workday to 10 hours, shorten operating days to just 4 days a week in the smaller storefront branches, and reduce regionals to 1 shift. All pages will be gone by September 30 which means all remaining full time library staffers will have to pick up this slack and work longer days. That is until the end of October and then the real fun begins. Full time staff will also be on the chopping block with 114 positions to be cut; for now. The library in the near future will be operating with about the same number of staff members they had back in 1999. Back then, there were only 30 branches. Zoom a decade later, we have 48 branches with another one about to open. Do the math! I can not say 100% that all of this will not happen but I am about 99.9% certain that this will happen; there is always room for error.
Having said all this, why have I come to this conclusion? The county millage has been set for all county departments. Once set, the millage can not go up; it can only go down. There are two options here, it will get worse in the coming months if nothing happens or it will get worser if the library’s millage goes down further. With that, patrons will have to deal with less as the library has less to deliver. Residents voted for lower property, this will have to reflect in the service they get from the top down. I’m not saying this to be mean but they should expect the type of government they voted for and not get more bang for the buck. There is nothing more we can give and there’s nothing further to cut other than the staff that makes up the library system. In my opinion, a library with less staff becomes a building with just books; no more, no less.
Welcome to your new library.
More on this in the coming days, weeks, and a couple of months.