London Community News
By Mallory Clarkson/London Community News/Twitter: @MalloryClarkson
The London Public Library (LPL), like all other public institutions, is facing belt tightening from all of its government funders. But, unlike some organizations, it’s also seeing an increase in the number of patrons depending on its services.
Josh Morgan, LPL board chair, said with funding and service cuts and freezes, things are getting tight at the library.
“With the fiscal environment changing for all three levels of government and initiatives that have been funded by different levels of government being cut back on, we’re seeing our capacity to supply these services being challenged fiscally,” he said.
When it comes to federal funding portions of the public institution, the LPL has seen things like cuts to Library and Archives Canada, which could affect services at local branches, and the Community Access Program (CAP) grant, which helped with access to the Internet with around $13,000 in funds.
As well, funding from the province was halved about 15 years ago and has never increased to that level again. Currently the LPL receives around $500,000 from the province.
With those funding and service cuts in mind, as well as functioning within a municipal environment where zero increases are being demanded, Morgan said the library is attempting to stretch its dollars as far as they will go.
“At this point, there’s only so many places that we can look to for efficiencies without having to start to move into service cuts,” he said.
The library’s budget is around $20 million — $18 million of which comes from the City of London and $500,000 from the province. The remainder of the money is generated through fines, renting out meeting rooms and from tenants.
In difficult economic times, Morgan said people use the library’s facilities and services more as they try to cut back on their own budgets.
“We face increasing demand and a tightening of fiscal resources, which is a recipe for a challenging operating environment,” he said. “We work hard with our funders to help them recognize that in a challenging economy, a library is a place to invest, not to cut because people rely on our services more when they have nowhere else to go.”
Susanna Hubbard Krimmer, CEO of the LPL, agreed, adding when government grants or services are cut, the library ends up absorbing those costs, including the $13,000 that was covered off through CAP funding.
“It’s not just that the usage is going up, but what it is that you have more people in the community who need specific types of services,” she said, using their supply or DVDs as an example.
“Blockbuster is gone,” she said. “It’s one thing to borrow something from Blockbuster for $3-$4, it’s another to spend $30 on a brand new DVD.
“Lots of people don’t have that money, so what they’re doing is their going to the library to borrow those kinds of things.”
Hubbard Krimmer said it becomes challenging when the need for core services goes up, but the money the institution receives doesn’t increase at the same level.
She added coming up with the additional coin isn’t as simple as it seems, as the library strives to balance revenue generation against affordability. She explained if the LPL begins increasing its fines or rates for meeting rooms by too much, that could deter people from using the institution.
So, what the library is doing is looking for wiggle room in every revenue stream, petitioning the provincial government for more money and looking for more grants.
“We’re looking at every revenue line that we have to see is there anything else we can do and as some things are dropping away, to keep us going at the same level of service, we need to replace those dollars,” Hubbard Krimmer said. “So $13,000 went out in CAP, we know we still need to have computers on the floor at a certain level, so now what we have to do is we have to figure out how we are going to fund that.”
She added the LPL needs to bring in more revenue to sustain a good quality of service.
The library organization is currently working through a fund development strategy review to look at some of the ways efficiencies can be found or created. Information found in that review will be sent to the city’s Services Review Committee.
A change in procedure
Josh Morgan, chair of the London Public Library (LPL) Board, said the institution will be asking city council to change its budget process.
After being asked for feedback on the budget process by the city’s civic administration, Morgan said the board expressed their support for stable, multi-year targets, among other things.
“We also will be asking civic administration and city council to consider moving to a budget process that ends before the fiscal year starts so we know what we’re spending not well into the fiscal year, but before it starts,” Morgan said, adding the budget process currently ends in February or March, but has been known to be stretched until May.
“When you’ve expended five months of your operating budget and still not knowing your operational budget, it creates very challenging situations.”
Morgan said he expects this would make sense for other boards and commissions in the city.
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