How Do We Provide Excellent Services With Limited Resources, City Librarian Asks

City Librarian, Susan Hildreth, told a small group, at the Citizen’s Budget Conference Sunday, that limited financial resources pose a challenge in providing service excellence. “While we weren’t able to maintain current hours, we were able to preserve the book budget,” Hildreth said. “The good news is that our elected officials understand how important library services are to the community.”

On February 3rd, however, many neighborhood branch libraries will begin to operate on reduced hours. Hildreth said the goal is to re-establish six day service, at the 15 branch libraries which will close Sunday and Friday and operate on significantly reduced hours, as soon as possible. The service reductions are “dramatic,” she said.

It’s especially hard to cope with budget reductions when use of library services is spiking.

Seattle checked out 12 million books in 2009.  Circulation of materials increased 6% over the previous year.

People turned to the library for more guidance. Librarians are now available  by phone (206.386.4636), email, on chat, or with a text message and questions were up 20%.  

Visits to the website increased 11%

Downloadable media use jumped 55%

Podcast downloads exploded. Up 931% over the previous year.

The library also continues to provide critical services for families, children, and the unemployed.

Hildreth said the library is leanly staffed for a department operating on a budget of approximately $50 million. By not filling vacant positions, jobs have been preserved. Preserving jobs is a key goal of the Library Board. The Library Board, a group of 5 citizen volunteers, manages and administers library budget allocations from the Mayor and City Council.

“We’ve been known as the smartest and most literate city in the nation. It’s hard to maintain that without a fully operating library system,” she concluded.

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