The following letter was submitted by the Mammoth Lakes Friends of the Library:
Library Authority Board Members
Delivered via email to Stacey Adler, Mono County Superintendent of Schools
RE: Library Financial Outlook and Proposed Options
Dear Board Members:
No members of the Mammoth Lakes Friends of the Library (MLFOL) were able to attend the recent public workshop on the budget realities facing the Library Authority Board. However, we have obtained and reviewed a copy of the PowerPoint presentation made that day. We have some comments which we feel should be part of the official record and deliberations.
A. The presentation briefly acknowledged the contributions of MLFOL to the Mammoth Lakes Branch Library. However, as this has been an important part of our mission since establishing our 501(c)(3) corporation in 2005, we believe the actual numbers should be available to the Library Authority Board and the community:
1) MLFOL raised over $100,000 through its own fundraisers for the construction project.
2) In addition, MLFOL funneled over $600,000 more through our non-profit to allow for charitable contributions to the Building Fund.
3) Since completion of the library, MLFOL has contributed $184,000 towards the construction loan payments, not including whatever contribution might be made this December.
4) MLFOL has supported the library and its programs by providing over $131,000 for circulation items and special programs since 2009.
B. There is mention of MLFOL providing maintenance for the Mammoth Lakes Branch Library which needs to be clarified. Due to a generous gift of one of our members, we are able to provide funding for specific maintenance and enhancement projects, if approved through our Board. We have funded the following:
1) Repair and repainting of the building exterior.
2) Emergency sewer system repairs.
We are not in a position to take over all maintenance of the branch. Rather, we have designed the endowment distribution criteria to reserve the majority of the funds for capital projects and a smaller amount for short-term or one-time projects.
We consider ourselves partners with our Branch Library and feel that this important relationship should continue and prosper. We are also willing to work with the County FOL if they wish to increase support to the other branches.
C. The presentation includes a slide with the following statements:
“2) It would not benefit any branch, with the exception of Mammoth, to base a budget on the property tax rate of the given area.
3) It would not benefit any branch, with the exception of Mammoth, to base a budget on circulation data.”
MLFOL asks that these quantifiable items be included in the discussion. Transparency and comparison are an important part of being fully informed and understanding the issues. From our perspective, circulation is a direct “vote” of the community on the importance of the library.
The Library Authority Board and community should also be aware of property tax contributions and discuss how these quantifiable measures inform the full discussion. Knowing how each branch, not just the entire system, is funded is critical to the discussion.
D. The presentation made no mention of the economic impact of the libraries. While it is harder to quantify the value, anecdotal information tells us that there is value. One example is the “goodwill” provided at the Mammoth Lakes Branch and supported by MLFOL is for international tourists to be able to come in, sign onto a free computer, and print out their boarding passes at ten cents a page to return home.
E. Be assured that we fully support the steps taken by Ana Danielson, County Library Director, to deal with the shortfalls and use of reserves that she inherited. During her tenure, she has been open in telling MLFOL the fiscal status of the libraries. Many steps have been taken to reduce costs, and we expect that trend to continue.
F. We also support the current staffing and management of the Mammoth Lakes Branch as appropriate for the circulation of that branch. The June 2015 circulation numbers show that 71% of that month’s total library circulation was at our branch. A reduction in hours can and should be considered for each branch, as long as overall services are not impacted.
To help with the options, the number of patrons per staffing hour would be an important part of daylighting and discussing operations.
We also feel that management of our branch is important so that the County Library Director has sufficient time to oversee the smaller branches that do not have management staff.
We look forward to meeting with your Board and/or staff to further explore the issues and solutions. However, we also urge you to come to a decision soon, as the longer that the deficit spending continues, the more cuts will be needed.
Please feel free to contact us for further information and to set up a meeting.
Shannon Clark, MLFOL President