Library doing more with less

Sruthi Yejju

Eureka Public Library District is making ends meet – doing more with less.

Ann Reeves, associate director of EPLD, said, “Providing more services to the community with less funding has been an ongoing situation for many years, however with the current economic situation, we see people depending on us for help in new directions.”

Nancy Scott, director of EPLD, provided the statistics. She said they fill a grant application for public libraries on which they can count on every year.

“However, this year there is just no money to award the grants and we are just not going to get the money this time. We are trying to make up that deficit,” Scott said. “I am not even putting it into my budget for the fiscal year 2010-11, which means my money has to stretch even further.”

Reeves added that the state funding is not coming for the current year, ending June 30, 2010, and there is a prediction from the state for no per capita funds for the upcoming year.

“This money plays a huge role in our book and materials budget, and covers most of our program costs, as well as postage,” Reeves said.

Scott said that with changing times, the library has had to adapt to the changing needs of the community, even during the recession.

“We identify and attend to the needs of the community and respond in an appropriate manner and within appropriate time,” Scott said.

“The population using our library’s services is growing by leaps and bounds. But, all this has to be done and run on a pretty tight budget.

“The state funding has kept on decreasing in the last five years and our needs keep on increasing.”

Scott said, in the year 1993, the library provided the first public access computer in Eureka. She said they were very excited and had a fundraiser to get the money and bought a used Apple.

“From there we graduated to more computers, to dial-up Internet to Wi-Fi. Each time technology has advanced we have advanced to help the community. We need to remain current and vital to the community.

“But we are highly understaffed and with the downturn in economy, we are not exempt from recession either.”

According to Scott, with the unemployment rate being high now, many people come to the library to fill online job forms. The library, however, does not have the staff to sit and help these people.

Additionally, she said, all the facilities, workshops and programs that the library provides for the community takes a lot of staff time and effort, making them short-handed.

Reeves said their library services include workshops to help businesses promote themselves, providing job and resume help in partnership with Workforce Network, a five-day a week loan and delivery service and several programs covering different topics for all ages.

Scott added, “Eureka does not have a community center. Our library is the community center and we are proud of it.

“But it is very sad that due to lack of funds it could very easily come to having to charge folks for some of the services that are free now.”

The library also provides DVDs, which Scott believes helps people in their personal budget as they don’t have to rent or buy DVDs. However, the library has had to cut down on these too.

Scott said the library has started various other services which are “unique and not the traditional “I-am-going-to-the-library-for-this” kind of service.” One such service is they now transfer home videos to DVDs for $10 a DVD.

“It is a classic example of meeting a need in the community and saying that we know your life has changed and we can help,” Scott said.

The library also provides more borrowed materials, via an exchange system with libraries throughout the world, and is a member of the Alliance Library System. However, this system too is getting hampered due to lack of funds.

“The inter-library loan and delivery system is in jeopardy because of no money. There are many state libraries that are closing down and the library systems are closing down due to no funds,” Scott said.

“The demand is increasing but the supply cannot be met because of lack of money. In March 2009, as part of inter-library loan we sent out 2,339 items and received 4,164 items. As of March 2010, we sent out 3,419 and received 4,296 items.”

Another area that Scott said is getting affected due to budget constraints is the many different formats for the same title. For instance, meeting the needs of the people, the library has a regular print, large print, CD, downloadable digital version, paperback and so on formats for one single title.

Additionally they cater to children with reading challenges with audio books and other formats specific to other needs.

Scott said she is grateful to the community. She said community partners have provided exemplary services. There are many community resources that conduct classes and workshops for the library.

“Our community is very supportive and understanding. It is a two-way street. We are supportive and understanding of their needs as well,” Scott said.

She assures that the programs provided for the community wouldn’t stop, but will be on a reduced scale and although they are understaffed they will do their best to work things out.

Reeves and Scott both said the ways they are trying to make up the deficit include fundraising through Friends of the Library group.

Other ways they are trying is by searching out and pursuing any and all grant opportunities, in which the library fits the criteria and actively soliciting donations of materials and cash donations.