TELLURIDE – Wilkinson Public Library Interim Director Brenda Carns is only three weeks into her new job, but already she's drafted a preliminary budget for 2014 budget (available atwww.telluridelibrary.org) which would allow the library to reopen on Sundays.
Reopening on Sundays, however, requires a vote from the library’s board of trustees at the next public meeting next Thursday at 5 p.m. If the board approves, Sundays at the library could resume on December 1.
A sharp decline in revenues led former Director Barb Brattin to close on Sundays, sparking public anger and harsh criticism aimed at the library management. The board fired Brattin this summer.
The board, after the public's intense reaction to Sunday closures, commissioned a user survey. Not surprisingly, an overwhelming majority of respondents’ comments asked for the library to reopen on Sundays.
“I think it's clear that Sunday openings are important to the community having reviewed the survey and spoken with staff and the community," Carns said in an interview this week.
Using survey data, Carns and her staff drafted a budget aimed at preserving Wilkinson's quality of service while finding areas to trim.
In 2013, the library spent 70 percent of its operating expenditures on staff wages and benefits, and the 2014 draft budget reduces the number of full-time equivalent employees by 1.3 through attrition.
According to Carns’s 2014 draft budget, property tax revenue in 2014 – the bulk of the library’s income – is estimated to be down nearly 16 percent from last year. The operating deficit caused by that reduction would be covered by a reduction in expenditures by $224,000 in 2014 and would draw down $134,000 of the library’s $1.2 million reserve fund.
“I think that despite some decisions we needed to make on the budget, the library is on good financial footing,” said Carns
Retaining library employees is a top priority of for Carns, who said, “the library’s best asset is the staff, so what we’ve done is maintain benefits and compensation that are competitive to help retain these employees.”
Carns’s budget also outlines a series of shifts in service priorities in 2014. Cardholders’ use of eBooks, for example, increased 94 percent over last year, so the library will be catering more to that new demand. The library’s wireless network also increased by more than a third from 2012, causing the library to double its internet capacity.
Visits, circulation, in-house computer use, meeting room reservations and program attendance saw decreases from 2012, the report says, and library will more closely monitor the use of its services to adjust and possibly find further savings.
With nearly 30 years’ experience in public libraries, Carns has managed difficult budget issues in the past. She transformed the Fort Collins public library from a municipal library into a library district with it’s own taxing authority. For 12 years, Carns worked as the acting director of the Arapahoe library district, a $9 million system, in Littleton, Colo.
Watch publisher Seth Cagin is a member of the Wilkinson Library Board of Trustees. He was not involved in the preparation of this story.