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Library plans to restore hours at some branches

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The financial picture for Indianapolis’ struggling public library system is expected to improve enough for leaders to consider restoring operating hours at 10 of its 23 locations next year.

In its 2012 budget, the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library is proposing to restore eight hours per week at the downtown Central Library and each of nine township branches, including Glendale, Lawrence, Pike and Irvington.

That would help reduce the 26-percent cut in hours the system made last year to cope with money shortfalls by 6 percentage points, said Rebecca Dixon, the library’s chief financial officer.

“Obviously we would love to restore all of our hours,” Dixon said. “This is kind of a baby step in the process of trying to get back to where we were.”

The system saw patron visits drop 15 percent in 2010, to just more than 5 million, due to the shorter hours.

The library also plans to restore its funding for purchasing materials, which was cut last year. Its budget was presented to the library board last week but has yet to be approved by that agency’s body or the City-County Council, which this week begins hearings for the overall city-county budget and municipal corporations such as the library.

Next year’s proposed library budget would include an additional $408,000 in operating expenses. The library was expected to face a revenue shortfall of about $4.4 million next year but has found ways to fill that gap and have additional operating cash that will fund the added hours and new materials.

To do that, it’s proposing to transfer about $2.2 million in debt payments from the library operating fund to the debt service fund. Depending on assessed values, that could require an increase in the library’s tax rate to cover the expense.

The library also will receive a small sliver—one-tenth of one percent—of the city-county’s share of county-option income tax funds, providing a $150,000 boost. Library officials also are planning for reductions in other operating expenses, such as utility costs, and additional revenues from intergovernmental taxes, such as license and excise taxes.

Still, the library will have to dip into its operating reserves to make up the rest of the gap.

Dixon expects to use about $1.6 million of the reserves—an amount that fluctuates but typically hovers around 10 percent to 12 percent of the $38 million budget.

The library also saw a slight uptick of about $1 million in property-tax revenue, but that will offset a drop in local-option income tax revenue.

Jim Mulholland, who leads the Sustainable Library Citizens Coalition, called the small amount of additional funding a victory in a tough budget year.

But said he would have liked to see the restored hours spread across all locations, rather than just the township branches and Central Library.

Dixon said the locations chosen, which also include branches in Wayne, Warren and Franklin townships and areas such as Nora and Southport, were based on usage.

Mulholland said that won’t be much help to many Center Township neighborhood branches, which serve mostly low-income neighborhoods.

But he also worries that the partial restoration could give the public the false impression that things are back to normal.

“It would pretty much give people that use those large branches the impression that things have been solved,” Mulholland said. “People are getting used to this new reality and thinking that’s just the thing ways are going to be.”

The coalition, which vocally crusaded against a plan to close some library branches last spring, also is considering whether it should scale back its presence.

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  • staff did not benefit
    Staff did not benefit from the decision to cut hours. Depending on where staff work many rarely have an entire weekend off or two days off in a row if they have to work a weekend. The staff are actually suffering from the reduced hours and reduced staffing at most locations.
  • More evening hours needed
    Libraries should be open more evening hours/weekend days to accommodate students and community room users. Cutting evening hours was a BAD idea, which only benefitted the staff, not the library patrons.
    • library fees
      Late fees actually went DOWN, when all this restructuring went down. VHS tapes- from $2 at day to 25cents. DVDs from $2 to $1. It doesn't cost jack if you bring them back when they're due.
    • There is already a library tax
      It's called user fees... they jacked those up last year for replacement cards and late fees.

      As far as the computer usage goes, most of the people in the library using PCs are either trolling for porn or playing video games when I go in there. If you need the library to work on homework or your resume and don't have a computer, I'm all for that, but I don't think that the library should fund teenagers goofing off or people dumping off their kids for the librarians to babysit them.
      • brainstorming ideas
        Ray's comment is an example of why the Library Citizens' Coalition should not scale back. There needs to be a vehicle to gather these great ideas, such as Ray's, and actually propose them when/where they would make a difference. Citizens can solve so many problems and do it sensibly, but many times there is not a way to do that.
      • inexpensive service expansion
        I'd like to see wifi access extended to picnic tables and parking lots outside the library for those of us with netbooks so that we can access ebooks and look for jobs on days when the library building itself is closed.
      • Learn from history...
        While I would support a special Library Tax in theory, I most definitely would not do so in reality.
        The Hoosier Dome tax is still being collected today, nearly 30 years later, despite the fact there is no longer a Hoosier Dome.
        Once a tax is approved, it will never go away, and it will almost always be used for other things than it's original intention. One committee later, and the Library would only be getting 1% of 1% of the tax, and the rest would be being used for who knows what.
      • Special library tax
        I'd pay a special library tax if it meant the libraries could maintain a great collection and stay open more hours to serve the public. Some things are definitely worth being taxed for.
      • WONDERFUL!
        A special library tax? That is a fabulous idea. I'm all for supporting public libraries in every way possible. And I'm so happy that we may have Friday hours back again at the Irvington branch. Yes, yes, yes!
      • Hurray!
        I'm thrilled to hear this news. I'm a huge library supporter. I think there should be a special library tax so that the library doesn't have to worry about money all the time.

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