With the economy still struggling to rebound from the Great Recession, many west Oakland County residents continue to turn to their local public libraries, whether it’s for entertainment, education, or personal purposes. Most of the lakes area public libraries have reported recent increases in their collections in all formats — including books, CDs, DVDs, and other materials — in order to accommodate a rising number of visitors. In tandem, those two trends are resulting in a hike in the number of items being checked out of area libraries.
“In tough economic times, people tend to rediscover their public library,” said West Bloomfield Public Library Director Clara Bohrer. “Sometimes it’s for entertainment purposes or reasons related to education, sometimes it’s related to job-seeking and sometimes it’s for life issues that arise because of a bad economy.”
Area libraries are also reporting increases in patrons using their computers and Wi-Fi networks for Internet browsing, job hunting, research and material preparation.
“I remain a person who believes that public libraries must have a balance in what’s refer to as ‘old and new’ at this point in time to truly address the overall needs in a community,” Bohrer said.
But, public library funding continues to struggle because of declining property values and property tax revenues, the public libraries’ chief source of operational funding.
Millages make up the majority of local library revenues — around 80 to 90 percent at each area library. Fines, state aid, donations and interest add small contributions to the revenue stream, but declining millage revenues are forcing area libraries to do what they can to contain costs.
A mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 of a property’s taxable value, which is generally equal to half the property’s market value.
Here’s a look at public library use, collections, and revenue trends in the lakes area.
Like most communities, the Waterford Township Public Library, located at 5168 Civic Center Drive, has been trying to keep afloat by implementing a series of cutbacks, including last year’s closure of the Leggett branch and modifying hours of operations at the main library.
In December, Friday hours were eliminated.
“We’re down 30 percent in staff hours from five years ago and are now closed on Fridays because there’s just not enough staff,” said Library Director Joan Rogers.
The library’s 2012 budget calls for an anticipated $1.976 million in revenues. The bulk of revenues, at 91 percent, come from the library’s operating millage. Other sources of revenue include a $31,000 contribution in state aid; fines and fees, estimated at $33,000; and penal fines, at roughly $87,000.
“Our state Constitution designates fines for motor vehicle infractions to libraries after court costs, but they vary year to year,” Rogers said, explaining penal fines.
The library’s fiscal year runs from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31.
The majority of expenditures, $1.5 million, are for staff salaries and benefits, while materials cost around $47,550.
“The materials budget was $220,000 in 2007 compared to the $47,550 we’re spending now,” Rogers said. “We’ve been gradually decreasing that amount because it’s the most elastic part of the budget. We’re managing thanks to us belonging to a cooperative and borrowing to supplement (materials).”
The library’s operating millage rate is currently at 0.9118 mills and is slated to expire in August. Voters will decide whether to authorize a 10-year renewal during the Aug. 7 primary election.
“We’re asking for another renewal at the rate we’re currently collecting,” Rogers said. “We don’t have the ballot language yet until the assessor is done with Board of Review hearings.”
Rogers said approval of the millage renewal will be crucial in order to keep the library up and running. Even with the millage renewal, the library’s revenues have been falling steadily since 2007.
“Over the last five years they have been down between $2.6 and $1.9 million of what we originally were collecting, or 26.3 percent, since 2007,” Rogers said.
Volumes of materials such as books, newspapers, magazines, CDs, and DVDs on hand amounted to 165,989 in 2011. The library has purchased 686 items so far this year for a total of 166,675.
There are currently 56 computer work stations throughout the library, and of those, 44 provide Internet access.
“We participated in a statewide grant that doled out stimulus money to use, so we upgraded all our computers,” Rogers said.
Library foot traffic, pegged at 259,000 patrons in 2011, dropped from 2010′s 269,000, mainly due to the closing of the Leggett branch library. Circulation numbers may also appear skewed for the same reason. In 2010, circulation for the branch and the main library was estimated at 401,000, while in 2011, it was about 372,000.
“We closed the Leggett branch in 2010, so we lost that whole operation,” Rogers said. “We have pretty broad use, whether that be Internet searches or sending e-mails, book circulation, patrons reading the newspaper regularly, educational software or programs like Story Time.”
Overall, Rogers said library patronage is up and will continue to climb because the institution offers a wide range of services.
“Use is up and quite diverse,” she said. “We serve as a community center of sorts and offer programs and work stations with no user fee. It has helped folks over the last several years who have lost their jobs by providing resources.”
She said she foresees electronic resources as a continuing trend.
“Throughout this century, this has been the trend and with the advent of e-books and others, such as professional journals and even newspapers going electronic, they will be publishing more and more in an electronic format,” Rogers said.
The Wixom Public Library, located at 49015 Pontiac Trail, is bustling with patrons who choose to utilize the institution’s free services and programs. However, declining property values continue to take a toll on the library’s budget.
The library’s fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30.
The 2011-12 fiscal year budget is pegged at $785,436, with the three main sources of revenue coming from millage revenues ($739,000), circulation fines and fees ($24,000), and penal fines ($17,000).
The current millage rate is 1.08 mills. The millage is set to expire in 2016.
Other revenue streams come by way of donations and other miscellaneous income ($3,000); state grants, ($2,600); and federal grants, ($4,000).
Expenditures consist of personnel costs, operating expenses, and library materials.
“Over the last few years, our revenues have been steadily declining and (that) has severely impacted library services,” said Library Director Cindy Mack. “This will continue to impact us over the next year, but the goal of the library board is to still provide strong, quality services and enough staff and hours of operation to ensure this.”
To mitigate costs, the library implemented a wage freeze four years ago and staff has been reduced through attrition.
As of last month, the number of books, newspapers, magazines, CDS, DVDS and other items at the library totaled 67,963, compared to 63,608 in January 2011.
Currently the library provides 25 computers for public use, of which eight have Internet access. Three computers are used for children’s games and four computers only provide access to the library’s online catalog. There have been no purchases of new computers in recent years.
Patronage has dropped since 2010. Last year, 124,513 visited the library, compared to 134,635 in 2010.
“Library usage has increased over the last few years because the library offers a wide variety of resources and services at no cost,” Mack said. “This includes special library programs, DVDs, music, magazines and books. There was a slight decline in 2011 as compared to 2010 for a variety of reasons. The library had to reduce its materials and programming budgets because of declining funding and the numbers have stabilized after many years of significant growth.”
Fewer items were checked out in 2011 compared to 2010. Last year, 218,695 items were checked out, compared to 221,423 in 2010.
“Patrons use the library for a variety of purposes, including checking out books, movies and music, and reading newspapers and magazines,” Mack said. “Patrons also visit the library to use our quiet study and meeting rooms, and to attend library programs.”
Mack added that there is a definite trend toward patrons wanting to use electronic resources.
“Patron access to information has always been the main role of libraries, but as technologies continue evolving and changing, libraries have had to adapt to patron needs and expectations to adequately facilitate access to information in a new era. These needs include an ever-increasing demand for online resources and services,” she said.
For its fiscal year running from July 1 through June 30, the Walled Lake City Library has a current operating budget of $334,500.
According to Library Director Donna Rickabaugh, the library’s budget has declined by one-third due to dropping property values.
“Our budget has been reduced by a third,” she said. “Anybody who has left, such as our part-time people, have not been replaced. The full-time people have taken a 15-percent pay cut for the past two years. Hopefully, someday it will be restored, but we don’t know.”
However, she said the library hasn’t cut any of its services, despite the decline in revenue.
“We just don’t have as much staff available to help residents with computers or to help them find the information they need,” Rickabaugh said. “(There’s) just not enough people.”
The main sources of revenue include the library’s two millages ($316,000 per fiscal year), state penal fines ($8,500), and state aid ($2,500).
While one of the millages is levied in perpetuity, the other is up for renewal in a couple years.
The library’s top three expenditures include employee salaries and benefits, computer maintenance, and the purchase of books, non-print materials, and subscriptions for downloadable books.
The library has 13 computers for patrons, with 10 of those providing Internet access, two used for children’s programs, and one for browsing the library’s catalog.
The library also offers free Wi-Fi Internet access to those with their own laptops and other electronic devices.
“We even have people outside the library, sitting on the benches using the Internet on their computers,” Rickabaugh said.
Although the library does not compile their collection statistics until their annual report in July, Rickabaugh said the library’s materials are decreasing overall.
“We are still weeding out some materials, but we can’t buy as many to replace them,” she explained.
Approximately 2,694 visitors came to the library this February and checked out approximately 3,110 materials.
“We still have a good circulation. People want to read books,” she said. “I think the library is pretty well used. We have a quite a few programs geared toward these hard economic times, such as ‘How to Invest Money’ and programs of that kind. And people have gotten a lot of use out of those.”
The budget of the Highland Township Public Library is $983,555 for the current fiscal year, running from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31.
Top expenditures include salaries, repair/maintenance, contractual services, and collections and collection maintenance.
Highland has a millage to help fund the library, a collection that was partially renewed in 2010. The current millage rate stands at 1.2667 mills, which was rolled back from the original 1.6 mills.
The millage is estimated to bring in approximately $833,000 for 2012 operations.
However, library millage revenues have been declining for the past five years, according to Library Director jude halloran.
“Since 2007, the revenue from the voted millage has dropped over $480,700,” she said.
The library receives additional revenue through state penal fines (about $21,000 a year) and around $17,700 in fines and fees, as well as charges for lost books. Additional revenue comes from the interest on library investments.
But these sources have seen declines as well, halloran said. Nevertheless, this shouldn’t prevent the library from meeting township residents’ needs.
“The library has always been cost-conscious, and libraries have always been models of collaboration and cooperation with each other in sharing resources and obtaining volume discounts,” halloran said. “We are continually reviewing our internal procedures to eliminate what is not necessary.”
Adjustments to compensate for declining revenues have included part-time staff hours replacing a full-time position lost through attrition, changes to full-time employee health care benefits, and cuts to the budgeted collection expenditures, supplies, and continuing education for staff.
According to halloran, the library is more reliant upon donations and grants, such as those provided by the Friends of the Library group to support the Our Summer Reading Club activities.
As for the library’s collection, it has increased by almost 1,000 items to 93,065 over the past year.
“The collection is always being refreshed as new items are added regularly, and lost, worn or outdated items are withdrawn,” halloran said.
Meanwhile, the downloadable collection has more than doubled in size with 7,000 titles available in 2011.
The library also has 22 computers with public Internet access, three children’s games computers, three Microsoft Office workstations, and recently purchased laptops for residents’ in-library use. The laptops were obtained with a grant to serve patrons.
The library recorded over 111,450 patron visits in 2011.
WHITE LAKE TOWNSHIP
The White Lake Township Library has an operating budget of $1.1 million for the current fiscal year, which runs from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31. Top sources of revenues include property taxes ($1.03 million), state penal fines ($34,000), and fines and fees ($13,000). The main expenditures of the library include salaries and benefits, technology, and materials, such as books, audio and downloadable books, DVD’s and music.
The library has three separate millages: The original 0.3-mill library establishment millage which is levied in perpetuity and has since decreased to 0.21 mills; an 8-year operating millage at 0.5 mills which originally passed in 1998 and was renewed in 2006 at 0.45 mills and is set to expire in 2014; and an 8-year operating millage at 0.4 mills that was passed in August 2010 and is set to expire in 2018.
However, due to declining property values, Library Director Lawrence Ostrowski said the library would’ve been forced to make many cuts without the 2010 library millage.
“Without the new 0.4 mills, we would have had to make serious cuts in services, personnel and materials to operate with a loss of almost one-third of our income,” he said. “Failure of the millage would have meant the closing of the library on Wednesdays, the elimination of programming personnel, and significant cuts regarding the purchase of new materials.”
Nevertheless, the library has had to make adjustments to compensate for the rough economic times.
“We made cuts early in the recession, starting in the summer of 2009 with personnel, and made further cuts in January of 2010 in personnel and hours of operation to the public, and a 20-percent cut in materials,” Ostrowski said. “The success of the new millage allowed us to restore the cuts to the materials budget but not to restore previous hours of operation.”
The library has 24 public computers, 18 of which provide Internet access.
The library also had approximately 70,000 physical items — books, DVDs, magazines, and CDs — as part of its collection as of last December.
“The fact that, in spite of all you hear that libraries are less important in this day of digital access to supposedly everything, our circulation of materials keeps rising, more people are coming or more frequently coming to the library, and we continue to have waiting lists for attendance to story times and computer instruction programs,” Ostrowski said.
The library typically receives over 90,000 visits a year.
The Commerce Township Community Library’s operating budget for 2011 was $1.2 million, of which the library spent $1.08 million.
Top expenditures included salaries and benefits, as well as collection costs ($107,685 for books and $78,950 for electronic databases, downloadable books, audio books, and music).
Approximately $252,000 was spent from the building fund, which is separate from the operating fund, on the 2011 portion of the library renovation project.
The total revenue for 2011 was $1.71 million, which came from the library millages ($1.58 million), penal fines ($49,071), interest and dividends ($29,226), and fines and fees ($27,726).
This year, the library’s budget is set at $1.3 million, with revenue anticipated at $1.65 million.
The library has a permanent millage of 0.3 mills and an additional millage levied at 0.7 mills which expires in 2014.
Declining property values have impacted the revenues, with the 2011 millage originally projected to bring in $1.68 million.
However, the Commerce library has been prepared for these declines.
“We have kept expenditures below revenue, even with declining revenue,” said Library Director Connie Jo Ozinga. “A portion of unspent revenue is moved to the building fund for future construction. We have not had to cut hours or expenditures.”
Commerce has a collection of about 118,000 physical materials in the library.
Ozinga said that with the recent library renovation, they continued to update their collection.
“Between some of the shelves being completely filled and the shelving moving and rebuilding that went on with construction, we did focus this year on weeding the collection, particularly in children’s fiction and adult biography,” Ozinga said. “Removing books is an on-going thing.”
The library has 18 adult, seven teen, and eight kids computers, all of which have Internet access.
“There are also a zillion people here every day with laptops using our Wi-Fi Internet service,” Ozinga said. “This is a very well-used and busy library. Our average last year was 423 people entering the building each day.”
Last year, the Commerce library saw over 146,000 visits, which resulted in approximately 319,000 materials being checked out.
In addition, 12,000 materials were downloaded.
WEST BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP
According to West Bloomfield Township Public Library Director Clara Bohrer, the library’s revenue for the for the current fiscal year is $4.92 million. The projected operating expenditures for its two facilities, the main library and the West Acres Branch, is $4.77 million.
The library’s fiscal year is April 1 through March 31.
“Our library has been fortunate that our bond payment, which averaged $900,000 a year, ended in 2011,” Bohrer said.
In 2011, West Bloomfield had 1,003,084 visits to its facilities, which is up from 997,101 visits in 2010.
The library’s authorized operating millage is 1.7 mills and, in the current fiscal year, the millage is projected to bring in $4.38 million in property tax revenue, according to Bohrer.
In August 2010, West Bloomfield Township voters overwhelmingly approved a 15-year millage renewal at 0.6586 mills to fund library operations. That renewal scheduled to take effect this year.
Township voters previously approved a library millage of 0.7 mills in 1997 that was rolled back to 0.6586 by provisions of the Headlee Amendment to Michigan’s 1963 Constitution. That millage expired last December.
“Our millage revenue has been in decline for the past several years due to declining property taxes and is expected to continue to decline for at least one or two more years,” Bohrer said.
She added that since 2009, the library has lost about $1.52 million in property tax revenue.
“So the loss in property tax (revenue) was somewhat alleviated by the absence of a bond payment, which came out of our operating millage,” she said.
Property tax accounts for about 89 percent of the library’s annual revenues, while other sources of revenue include state aid to public libraries, penal fines, and contract for services, which have all been in steady decline since 2009.
Bohrer said that the only revenue source to show an increase is fines and fees, which has increased from $191,388 in the 2009 fiscal year to a projected $213,000 in the current fiscal year.
She added that the library has had to reduce operating costs by over $600,000 to date and that it has also had to reduce personnel costs by eliminating positions, primarily through attrition.
The library has eliminated three full-time positions and five part-time positions, and has not given personnel any wage increases in the past two years, and will not for the coming fiscal year.
Bohrer said that the library’s current collection size is 318,502 items, which is about a 3.6-percent increase over last year’s figure of 307,182.
“Our library has been fortunate in that our Friends of the Library group has provided a sizable donation each year of $25,000 to supplement our materials budget so we can continue to meet usage demands,” Bohrer said.
The library currently has 174 public access workstations configured for different purposes between the two facilities.
“We have not had to reduce the number of our computers, but we haven’t increased them, either,” Bohrer said.
However, the library has seen increased use of its Wi-Fi network, with a total 17,773 unique laptop users and 51,305 connections in the 2011 fiscal year, which represented a 23 percent increase in users and a 22 percent increase in connections over the previous fiscal year.
Bohrer said that library material budgets are being strained by the proliferation of different formats through which it is published.
“You need to purchase a best-selling or in-demand title in print book form, on CD format, in eAudiobook and in eBook format to download to a personal device,” she said.
“Our library tries to meet needs at both ends of the ‘old and new’ spectrum.”
According to Milford Public Library Director Tina Hatch, the library’s operating budget is a balanced at $1.03 million for the current fiscal year, which runs from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31.
“Library use is up, probably because of the economy,” she said, adding that there was a slight decline in the circulation of materials in spite of an increase in library visits.
“If we look back to 2009, library usage increased significantly and continued to increase, but at a more normal rate, in 2010. Certainly, this coincides with the tough economic times.”
She added that the library levies two millages, including a perpetual 1-mill levy, which has been reduced to .7611 via the Headlee Amendment, and a 0.38-mill levy that will expire in December 2019.
The library’s budget estimates that 92 percent of its revenues will come from the millages, bringing in approximately $909,000 in property tax revenue, and an additional $20,800 in industrial facilities taxes (IFT).
Hatch said that declining property values have impacted the library’s millage revenues. The library has also been affected by the agreement Milford Township recently struck with the General Motors (GM) Proving Ground.
“Five years ago, our current millage rate would have brought in approximately $1.12 million in property taxes, plus about $21,000 in IFTs,” she said. “That’s almost a 19-percent decrease over the five-year period.”
Hatch added that other income sources account for about 8 percent of the budget, with sources including fines and fees, state penal fines, state aid, donations, and interest income.
“The Friends of the Library have contributed $7,000 for programming activities for the current year. State aid and penal fines have been in decline almost every year,” she said.
Hatch also said that a wage freeze has been in effect for the last three years and about 43 hours were cut from staffing, resulting in the library going to a 6-day schedule year-round after previously being open 7 days per week during the school year.
“The materials budget has been reduced significantly, meaning that customers might have to wait a bit longer for popular items,” she said, adding that a week-long unpaid furlough for staff had been planned for this year.
“However, with the recent settlement of the GM issue and the amount of repayment to the Proving Ground known, the (library) board has approved canceling the furlough week.”
The library has 28 public access computers, with 21 of them providing Internet access and productivity software to the public, in addition to 10 classroom notebooks purchased with a grant.
“Ten years ago, we were in the midst of planning for a new library building. Our residents knew that technology would be a huge part of the services we provide, but they indicated strongly that new technology should be balanced with traditions of library service,” Hatch said. “Planning involved more space for collections, of course, but also more space for computers and more space for studying or just relaxing with a book, newspaper or magazine.”
Hatch said that the library had 80,903 items at the beginning of 2011, a number that shrunk to 78,466 at the end of the year.
There were 200,269 patron visits at the library in 2011, up from 198,586 in 2010. Nearly 271,000 items were checked out of the library in 2011, down from 276,907 in 2010.
“Are our customers asking for more DVDs, online books? Yes, some of them are, but others continue to want print materials,” Hatch said.