Library Board Dealing With Tight Funds
By Joy Diaz, KUT News
The Austin Library Commission is meeting this afternoon to discuss funding sources and how the library system can accommodate more users with a stagnant budget.
“The City Council has never felt that the library should be funded at a higher level, and the library has had money taken away from it for so long that at this point they only ask for what they know they can get,” said Olga Wise, a former librarian and a member of the Library Commission.
Austin is not unique in this regard. Libraries nationwide are trying to adapt to the new norm of tight budgets and a push toward replacing print items with digital versions.
Rivkah Sass, director of the public library in Sacramento, Calif., says her staff has gotten creative in looking for additional revenue sources. For instance, they started processing passports. She says the libraries have more convenient hours than the post office, and they get to keep the $25 fee they collect.
“We have a print-on-demand Espresso Book Machine, which allows us to work with people who are self-publishing and actually publish their books for them,” Sass said. “It solves two issues: It’s truly a community resource, and libraries are still about books. The other is, it does brings a little bit of revenue for the library.”
Sass even rents out the library buildings for wedding and graduation parties.
Austin may consider that possibility once the new central library is up and running. But there’s no date for that yet. The bond package was approved six years ago, but groundbreaking won’t happen until at least November 2013.
Meanwhile, Austin’s growing population has brought more demand for library resources as a tight city budget has cut hours at many branches.