Saturday, November 21, 2009

Phoenixville Library to close one day a week

Saturday, November 21, 2009

By Dennis J. Wright,

PHOENIXVILLE — Effective immediately, the Phoenixville Public Library will be closed every Wednesday, according to the library's Board of Trustees.

The Board of Trustees recently approved operating budget cuts for 2010, which include closing one day a week as well as eliminating three staff positions.

"These cuts were extremely difficult," board President Susan Meadows said. "The library was forced to address an $80,000 shortfall."

There have been significant cuts to the state library subsidy, along with the educational improvement tax credit program, Access PA, which is the state reimbursement for serving customers outside the library's service area, and county funding, which are established in late October.

Along with an increase in health insurance costs, the library had no choice but to make deeper cuts in its operating budget for the current fiscal year by cutting staff and hours of operation, Meadows said.

"The collection budget has been cut, part-time hours of some of the staff have been reduced, and the library will be closed on Wednesdays effective November 25," said John Kelley, executive director.

"Every day is busy at the library, but statistically Wednesday is our slowest day," Kelley said. "This closure will also affect children's programs. The library's new hours will be Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

"The funding of libraries is very complex because the library draws from many different sources to make its budget," he said. Kelley explained that public libraries are primarily funded by a local source and then they supplement this amount with state, county and private funds.

"We are fortunate to have the Phoenixville Area School District as our local government funding source," he said. "They approved a small funding increase for the library for the current fiscal year. This was commendable for them as educational leaders, and very helpful for the library's programs and services for the community. Unfortunately the state cuts were too steep to change the outcome for this year."

The library's circulation is up almost 14 percent over the past two years with circulation approaching 300,000 items annually. Phoenixville is the third busiest public library in Chester County.

"We average some 130 holds a day on our materials, and people are standing in line to use our computers," Kelley said. "For the month of October, there were 65 educational children's programs, including outreach, with nearly 2,500 people in attendance. The adult programs drew over 250 people."

Kelley said that the board of trustees is very concerned over the impact that this funding cut will have on the Phoenixville community and will continue to seek new revenue streams for the operation of the library, while attempting to strengthen existing ones.

"While our hours of operation will be less, our quality of service and educational programming will continue to be strong," he said. "It is my hope that if our funding situation improves we can restore some, if not all of these hours.

"In the interim, inter-library loan borrowing and sharing of some resources among the countywide system member libraries will increase as we, and other county libraries, will be buying fewer materials."


Anonymous said...

Actually two days a week. They were already closed Sunday and now Wednesday. Its a shame for this town.

Anonymous said...

Does this make you happy Karen? Now the children will be safer on Wednesdays and you will also have more parking. No more hardships on Wednesdays.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if Karen is happy or not but I sure am. I'll take child safety and more convenient home parking in our Library neighborhood over extended hours of operation any day.

Anonymous said...

I would like to see the actual budget numbers involved in this.

They get the bulk of their funding from the School District, and received an increase recently from them.

They get a small amount from the state, and received a decrease from that source.

On balance, didn't they really receive an increase in funds?

How much did the health costs go up? What are the salaries involved? Are the remaining salaried staff taking a wage cut to offset the closed hours of the library?

They spent more on fundraising one year than they got back in donations. And how much of their funding was spent on that expansion debacle? There were lawyers fees, parking and traffic surveys, engineers drawings, etc. etc.

And how is the Library Foundation involved with this?

Didn't the library recently receive an anonymous half million dollar donation?

Numbers, folks, please.

The library has operated too long as a free-wheeling entity accountable to no one. During good economic times, that works. Unfortunately, times have changed.

Most small town libraries do not get anywhere near the funds that the Phoenixville Library gets.
Those libraries have no cash cow to return to asking for more. There is no fiscal discipline or creative problem solving when the cash drawer is always open.

They should be required to open up their books for an independent audit before anything else is done (i.e. School District bailout), which is what they are aiming for, I suspect.

Until the books are independently audited, I will see this as an attempt to exaggerate and dramatize a small fiscal problem and ride the wave of those libraries that are truly suffering.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 11:38, you obviously have some issues with Karen that really have nothing to do with the library being closed an extra day.

It is not healthy to be carrying around some grudge from the past. You are only hurting yourself. Let go of it, nothing good can come out of that type of anger.

Now back to a discussion of the library, and real solutions...

Anonymous said...

How much has the director's salary increased over the last five years - and how much is being paid in benefits to the library staff and board members? How much was spent by the library and the library foundation on architect, lawyers and advertising for an ill-conceived and impossible plan? Can you accept that this library is an any way well run by either its senior staff or its board? Where is the investigative work or even simple reporting inthis story?

Anonymous said...

The state reports that in 2007 the library was open 65 hours per week.
The school board gave them $442,343.
The state gave them $135,506.
The reported salaries and benefit cost reported was $561,269.
The school board budgeted something like $490,000 for next year (2010). The precipitous reduction in hours and announced layoffs either makes no sense or is symptomatic of bad management and poor oversight over the last few years. If you believe the reported reduction of $80,000 then ask why a less than 8% reduction in the operating budget should result in a 30% reduction in service and staffing.
Maybe the concept is to hire another architect and team of lawyers for another couple of hundred thousand dollars.

Anonymous said...

Didn't the State give them a grant of about $400,000 for the proposed expansion? Did they return that money or wasn't it paid yet?
If it wasn't paid, has the State rescinded the grant?

Anonymous said...

Is it possible that the deficit is in no small part caused by the bills coming due for the expansion expenses? Have they ever stated where the money came from to pay all those people, especially that lawyer who was by their side at every meeting?
Audit them, please, let the truth come out.

Anonymous said...

Here's what I don't understand. If the library can't afford to stay open - then how did the library board think they could afford a new library? I just don't understand this thinking!

Anonymous said...

i guess the library is just like any other entity run on tax payer's money. No accounting for the public - just spend it like ya got it. Ain't got it anymore? Cut services or get a tax increase. No problem.
Taxpayers got lot's a dough!

Anonymous said...

The grant was part of a state program where a library is promised to be reimbursed for up to about $450,000 for any moneys spent on a physical building project. A clock for that reimbursement promise which runs for about 4-5 years was started when Dinniman presented a purely symbolic check to the library board. There is no state money to return.
If you are one of those who responded to requests for contributions to the library, you might ask just how much funds were raised and compare how much went to the architects, lawyers, traffic study conductors and others mentioned by other posters. You might ask the school board members to look into just how your tax dollars are being spent, and if they will be paying to heat the library on Wednesdays. When last reported by the school board, they pay for the library maintenance which does not seem to show up on the expense sheet of the library nor does is it show up as a separate accounting by the school board.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone put a Right to Know request to see about the salaries, benefits, costs of expansion, etc? It doesn't cost you anything. All this beefing is just wasted bandwidth.

I'd inquire with Barbara Burke-Stevenson, pasd's interim superintentand who can help you.

Call her at 484-927-5000 to get the ball rolling and see how she can help. I'd be very curious how she spins it though. PASD owns the library, but just hands off our funds, then who knows how it's spent??

But hopefully, she'll know who handles this request for the library if she blows you off. She's been friendly and helpful with me in the past, but does wield some power and doesn't do what she doesn't feel like doing... And it ain't her money!

Anonymous said...

Has anyone requested this information at all? Everyone keeps saying they want to see this info, it is public. Ask for it.

Anonymous said...

If you go to they have information like the IRS form 990, which non-profits must file. However, there isn't much detail. For example, they post the director's salary separately, but the rest of staff is lumped together. And there is a one year lag, so most recent is not yet posted. But it gives some info.
Not sure if they would fall under the "Right to Know" as they are a non-profit, not a government entity, though they are funded by the school district and closely affiliated with it. It may take a judge to decide that one.

Anonymous said...

Do you think the library board looks at us as their tools? They're funded by our taxes, but they're non-profit so we can't see exactly what they're doing with our money. It's a joke that we've let them get this far with no oversite.

"The rest of the staff's salary is lumped together."

We're a joke. I can hear them laughing at us.

Anonymous said...

What kind of tax status does the library board have? It seems to me if they receive public money, they should be accountable to the taxpayers.

If this is a way to bypass accountability, this practice needs to be changed!

It seems to me that there are a lot of people\boards with their hands in the decision making/pot.

I have to wonder if this is in the best interest of the library itself.

Anonymous said...

Guidestar has the IRS Form 990 submitted by the library for tax years 2005 through 2007. According to the form 990, the Library Director's salary increased from $71,500 to $80,000 in two years, between 2005 and 2007. That does not include benefits and pension plan or travel allowance. That's $8,500, or an 11.88% increase in two years. How were they able to justify this exorbitant salary for a librarian? It's easily twice as much as any other librarian, small town or otherwise.

Anonymous said...

They receive public money from everybody and are accountable to nobody. Priceless.