Spring (and Budget Preparation) is in the Air

Even though it’s only the middle of February as I write this, I have a serious case of Spring Fever.  Maybe it’s the fact that we’re having beautiful sunny days that I don’t need to wear a coat for, or maybe it’s because daffodils are blooming.  More likely it’s that fact that the paperwork for my 2012-2013 budget proposal is sitting on my desk with the deadline for submission fast approaching.

This time last year I was feeling pretty darn good about the budget.  Other Library Directors across the state were sharing their horror stories.  Many were facing cutting hours, closing branches, laying off staff.  It was a frightening time for many libraries.  I was counting my blessings at only having to look at minor cuts.  Alamance County Public Libraries had struggled the whole year with staff shortages, but we were able to keep all the libraries open for their regular hours and hadn’t needed to cut staff hours.  The budget proposal for 2011-2012 would have to be cut some, and the Library wouldn’t meet its requirement of Maintenance of Effort to get full funding of State Aid, but heck, we were still in better shape than a lot of other libraries.

Then October came.  After the sales figures came out and revenue was looked at, Alamance County Departments were asked to make a 5% cut to their budgets, any positions open were frozen (I was one day away from hiring my last open position!) and sacrifices were called for.  A proposal before the Board of County Commissioners included closing two branches for the rest of the year and cutting weekend hours at two other branches.  This was in addition to the 5% cut to the budget!  Thank goodness our County Commissioners are supportive of your Libraries and we didn’t have to make the closures or cut hours.  But that 5% was a real hit to us, as it was to all Departments, I’m sure.

This year County Departments have been requested to submit a flat budget based on figures from the budget that included the 5% cut.  The reason I’m writing about this, is that the bulk of that cut comes from the money that is used to purchase books, DVDs, and the materials that you can check-out to take home from your libraries.  A cut of over $125,000 doesn’t leave much to go towards purchase of materials with the rising cost of books and DVDs and the many requests for eBook services.

This spring and throughout the year next year, you will be hearing a lot about a “Boost For Books” campaign.  It was done several years ago when a previous Director faced similar cuts to the materials budget.  We hope that citizens of Alamance County will rally behind their library and donate funds that will help us purchase books, DVDs, music CDs, books on CD and playaways – all the things you enjoy using from the library.  I will be working closely with businesses and organizations throughout the County, garnering support and funding to enable us to keep providing you with the services you’ve come to expect.  I look forward to working with each of you on this project!
February 21, 2012