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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, April 9, 2009

Library’s $3.13M budget built with recession in mind

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — A man without a home slept under the overhang at the front library door.

“We came in one morning and a homeless person was sleeping there,” said the library’s director, Barbara Nichols Randall. “We woke him up.”

The head of maintenance for the suburban library then gave him directions to a shelter in the city of Albany.

“All across the region and the country...more and more newly homeless and unemployed people are spending time in libraries,” said Nichols Randall.

While a homeless person is unusual at the Guilderland Public Library, unemployed workers using computers for job searches are not.  The library answered yes to a survey from the state’s labor department, saying it would be willing to have a temporary labor department employee work at the library, assisting job seekers, said Nichols Randall.

Beyond that, the recession has brought more people into the library for recreational use — for books, movies, and various programs that are free.

The board of trustees built next year’s budget with the recession in mind. Voters will decide on the $3.13 million budget on May 19, at the same time they vote on the Guilderland School District budget. Elections will also be held that day for school and library board members.

The 2009-10 plan is 3.6 percent higher than the current budget, which Nichols Randall points out is less of an increase than the Consumer Price Index increase of 4.45 percent.

With state aid down, gifts and grants in decline, and interest on investments plummeting, the lion’s share of the budget will come from property taxes — $2.86 million. This represents a 2.5-percent increase over the current levy.

Tax rates for the current year for Guilderland residents were estimated at 90 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation. Nichols Randall estimates that next year’s rate will be under a dollar.

The board of trustees has adopted the budget proposal, on which the public can comment at a May 14 hearing. The public hearing will be held at 7 p.m. in the library’s Normanskill Room.


Library spending will increase in only four areas, Nichols Randall said.

The cost for salaries and benefits will go up $133,000 to $2.2 million. As is typical of libraries and schools, paying for personnel makes up the bulk of the budget.

The Guilderland library employs about 50 full- and part-time workers, said Nichols Randall.

Second, library materials will go up $15,000 to $360,500. “We need to maintain our collection,” said Nichols Randall, again stressing that the increase is less than the Consumer Price Index.

“We still purchase primarily books,” she said, although that amount also includes databases, CDs, and DVDs.

Third, the cost for the physical plant will increase about $2,500 to $205,000. This is largely because of increased costs for fuel and electricity.

Finally, the cost for professional services and memberships will go up about $4,500 to $69,630.

“All of the other areas, we’ve cut back,” said Nichols Randall. “We know how everybody is hurting because we’re hurting ourselves.”

Programming and planning is cut from about $70,000 to about $60,000 for a savings of about $10,000.

The library has postponed its plans to expand and upgrade its building because of the downturn in the economy.

“The long-range planning committee met in the fall after all the bad economic news but before the election,” she said. The committee decided to postpone the planned community survey, which was to be followed by focus groups.

Also in round numbers, spending on human resources is cut about $3,000 to about $15,500. Equipment is cut about $9,000 to $42,000. Properties costs are cut about $11,000 to about $30,000. And, technology costs are cut about $2,000 to about $58,000.

“We took a little from everything,” said Nichols Randall, terming the reductions “small economies.”

The total increase in spending is about $115,000.


State aid is expected to decrease from about $10,000 to about $8,500, which Nichols Randall said, “basically pays for a part-time clerk.”

Gifts and grants are expected to decline from $17,500 to $10,000. Reserve funds will be depleted from $85,000 to zero. And investment income is expected to decline from $30,000 to $20,000.

In 2007, the library earned $45,000 in investment income.

“With interest rates plummeting,” said Nichols Randall, “we’ve been investing on an almost month-to-month basis. Now 1 percent is good, which is sad.”

The library is planning to make up for some of the revenue shortfall by increasing fines for overdue books and by starting to charge an annual fee for library patrons who live out of the district.

Those with overdue books are now fined 10 cents a day, and those with overdue DVDs or CDs are fined 25 cents. The new rate, starting July 1, will be 20 cents a day for everything.

Library fines bring in about $50,000 a year, said Nichols Randall. “That’s five times what we get from the state,” she said.

The library district follows the same boundaries as the Guilderland School District. People who live in other school districts, even if they live in the town of Guilderland, will have to pay a $25 annual fee to use the library.

Nichols Randall said over 6,000 patrons from out-of-district use the library. Another 575 live in town but aren’t part of any library district. The library expects to raise $37,500 from the non-resident fee, which is to go into effect on July 1.

“It was a hard choice to make,” said Nichols Randall of instituting the fee.

“Close to capacity”

As use continues to climb, Nichols Randall said, the library will continue to depend on volunteers and grants.

Last month alone, the library circulated 54,291 books, she said. The population of Guilderland is about 35,000. If audio books are added to that, the total circulation for March is 62,450. Overall, circulation in the first eight months of the year is up 6 percent.

Use of the library has increased, too.

“We’re very, very close to capacity,” said Nichols Randall. “On occasional days, we’re over capacity.”

 She described a family with children who are frequent library patrons and the mother on Friday noted she had to park at the far end of the lot because spaces were filled. The staff parks on an alternate lot, said Nichols Randall.

Computer use is heavy. And many come to the library with their laptops to use the wireless Internet.

“We really are trying to make sure we have programs to help everyone in the community...It’s not all entertainment,” said Nichols Randall. The library makes job information and career and college information available. Nichols Randall noted that many of the unemployed are using the time to find ways to increase their education.

Asked if perhaps more people are reading rather than paying for more expensive pastimes, Nichols Randall responded that she has noticed more people reading magazines, and fewer magazines on the donation rack.

“It’s a good way to save a little money,” she said.

She pointed out that the library’s website — www.guilpl.org — features a “value calculator...to determine what you’re getting for your money.”

“It’s neat,” said Nichols Randall. “You put in what you use and see what you’ve saved by borrowing instead of buying,” she said.

“Most of the increased use is because of the recession,” said Nichols Randall. “Some of it is because we are a good library.”

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