Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Summary of Changes Due to Budget Cuts

"Cutting libraries in a recession is like cutting hospitals in a plague."

Effective October 1, 2010 (the beginning of our fiscal year) the cuts imposed by the City go into effect. If you want to complain, contact the Mayor or your alderman. Click here for their names and contact information.

  • Less Staff. One staff member was let go. We were short staffed to begin with, so this means you may have to wait longer to get help. Please be patient with us.
  • Reduced Hours. Rather than closing on Saturday, we're opening later on Saturday and closing earlier on three days. New hours are listed here.
  • Increased fees. Overdue fines for books was raised from 10¢ to 15¢ a day. Copying and printing went from 15¢ to 25¢ a page.
  • Magazines Cancelled. About half our magazines will not be renewed, including American History, Antiques & Collecting, Create & Decorate, Education Digest, Essence, Familyfun, Fitness, Forbes, Jet, Kiplinger, Martha Stewart Living, Natural History, New Yorker, O: Oprah, Oxford American, People, Popular Mechanics, Prevention, Psychology Today, Real Simple, Road and Track, Saturday Evening Post, Southern Lady, Victoria, Woman's Day, Workbench/My Home My Style. If you want to help, a very nice affordable gesture would be to donate a year's subscription to one of these magazines. Email if you're interested.
  • No Online Databases. Ancestry Library Edition and World Book will not be renewed. The databases provided by the State through MAGNOLIA will still be available. Heritage Quest is provided by the Friends of the Library and will still be available.
  • Newspapers Cancelled. New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal will not be renewed. Fortunately, we received a grant (for one year only) to receive these online.
  • No New Equipment. Our public computers are eight years old and heavily used. If any need to be replaced, there will simply be one less computer.
  • No New DVDs. We were just beginning to transition from videos to DVDs. Fortunately, we just received a $3000 grant to buy new ones.
  • Charge for Using Meeting Rooms. Use of our meeting rooms used to be free. Now there is a charge of $15 for half day and $25 for all day.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Library Budget Cut by City of Natchez

“Cutting Libraries in a recession is like cutting hospitals in a plague.” Well, the budget approved by our City leaders did just that. In 2005, the City placed the Library on a dedicated millage of 2.575 mills. When property reassessments in 2009 would have resulted in the Library – finally – after 11 years – receiving an increase in funding, the City leaders decided they Library should not have any increase in funding. Apparently, they believe the Library can operate in 2011 (and in 2010, as well – but I will address that later) with the same amount of funding as it did in 1998. THIRTEEN YEARS AGO! In 1998, we did not have any computers and the minimum wage was $5.15!

Unfortunately, we cannot operate the Library on the same level of funding as we did in 1998. This knowledge, and the realization that our City leaders think so little of the importance of your public library, have forced us to make some significant changes in the services we offer.

To begin with, we have had to let one library employee go. Being short staffed to begin with, this means you may have to wait in line a little longer to be assisted. Overdue fines for books (which have not been raised in about 15 years) will increase from 10¢ to 15¢ a day. Charges for printing and copying with increase from 15¢ to 25¢ per page. The charge for color printing will remain the same.

The biggest effect is a reduction in hours. Rather than eliminate the four hours we are open on Saturday, we chose to close one hour earlier on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. We will still be open on Thursday until 6. On Saturday, we will open an hour later, at 10:00 am. Therefore, beginning October 1, our hours are 9-5 Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; 9-6 Thursday and 10-1 Saturday.

So, we are cancelling about half of the magazine subscriptions (that were just renewed this summer!). Among the titles cancelled are: American History, Antiques & Collecting, Create & Decorate, Education Digest, Essence, Familyfun, Fitness, Forbes, Jet, Kiplinger, Martha Stewart Living, Natural History, New Yorker, O: Oprah, Oxford American, People, Popular Mechanics, Prevention, Psychology Today, Real Simple, Road & Track, Saturday Evening Post, Southern Lady, Victoria, Woman's Day, Workbench/My Home My Style. Additionally we will NOT renew in 2011 two very important and heavily used online databases, World Book and Ancestry Library Edition. World Book provided online access to a vast array of research titles for school children of all ages. Ancestry Library Edition is a genealogy database for use by researchers using the Library’s computers.

We have cancelled three newspapers, each very heavily read: USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and New York Times. Fortunately, we had written a grant to provide access to these newspapers online, but the grant is for one year only, so if funding is not restored, these will disappear completely next year.

Being fiscally responsible has apparently resulted in our budget cut. Not one time has the Library overspent its budget and had to go to the City to ask for more money. How many other City departments make that claim? This is truly a sad day for us all. Our eight-year old computers are used so heavily that I wonder what we will do when they finally give out. Replacement of dead computers is simply not an option with this budget. Our City leaders are not Library users and obviously do not feel adequately funding the Library is important. That message is up to us to convey to them. Here's a link to their information.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Library Funding

As you may be aware, the City has slashed the Library's budget. We have not finalized how we will be coping with this unforeseen tragedy, but we will let you know as soon as it is determined. This process led us to look into the history of Library funding, and we found some interesting information. This may help you to understand why what the City did to our budget was so devastating.

Is the Library a part of the City government? Not really. In Mississippi, public libraries are independent government agencies that get most of their funding from local governments. We receive funds from the City of Natchez and Wilkinson County.

Why doesn't Adams County contribute to Library funding? There are several agencies that serve both City and County residents and are funded by both. However, as you may have noticed, the City and the County don't always get along. So in 1990, they decided to divide up funding responsibilities. In this agreement, the County agreed to be responsible for funding the Airport, and the City agreed to be responsible for funding the Library.

Doesn't the State provide funding? Several years ago, the State decided to require all public libraries to be run by professional librarians. However, many local governments (especially the smaller ones) complained that they couldn't afford to do that. So the State offered assistance. First, smaller counties were merged with larger ones, which is why we also manage the Wilkinson County libraries. Secondly, the State provides a grant to reimburse the cost of personnel salaries. However, in order to qualify for the grant, the local government must agree not to lower their funding level.

What is millage? Each year the City (and other local governments) determine the amount of property taxes taxpayers will pay, and they express that amount in millage. Millage is the amount per thousand that is used to calculate property tax. It's used instead of percentages, which is the amount per hundred. So, for example, a millage of 40 is the same as 4%. If your house is worth $100,000, you would pay $4,000 in taxes, unless you have a homestead exemption. Some states use percentages, but Mississippi uses millage - maybe because it confuses voters more.

What is dedicated millage? This is when a certain amount of a tax is "dedicated" to a certain purpose. For example, a local government might increase taxes by 3 mills and dedicate that amount of money solely for the purpose of funding their library. This is done because taxpayers usually object to their taxes being raised, but they may not if they know where the money is going. It also means that the beneficiary can depend on a stable source of income without having to always fight for their money.

In future articles, we'll discuss what happened to the Library's funding, and you'll find this information helpful in understanding why we are in such a crisis.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Importance of Reading

It is a well-known fact that when there were no televisions or computers, reading was a primary leisure activity. People would spend hours reading books. The tragedy is that, with time, people have lost their skill and passion to read, because there are many other exciting and thrilling options available, aside from books. And that is a shame because reading offers a productive approach to improving vocabulary and word power. It is advisable to indulge in at least half an hour of reading a day to keep abreast of the various styles of writing and new vocabulary.

It is observed that children and teenagers who love reading have comparatively higher IQs. They are more creative and do better in school and college. It is recommended that parents introduce the importance of reading to their children in the early years. Reading is said to significantly help in developing vocabulary, and reading aloud helps to build a strong emotional bond between parents and children. The children who start reading from an early age are observed to have good language skills, and they grasp the variances in phonics much better.

Reading helps in mental development and is known to stimulate the muscles of the eyes. Reading is an activity that involves greater levels of concentration and adds to the conversational skills of the reader. It is an indulgence that enhances one's knowledge consistently. The habit of reading also helps readers to decipher new words and phrases that they come across in everyday conversations. The habit can become a healthy addiction and adds to the information available on various topics. It helps us to stay in-touch with contemporary writers as well as those from the days of old and makes us sensitive to global issues.

Reading is a great stress reducer. You can't multitask when you read. So you are relaxed physically and mentally while reading - and it takes your mind off of everything else that may be bothering you.

So if you want to be brilliant, creative, verbally proficient, knowledgable, and relaxed - all you have to do is read - and it's free at your Library.