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Difficult Times, Difficult Choices

Eva Davis, DirectorThe 2010 library budget process has begun, and the economic news continues to worsen. The library board of trustees, library administration, and library staff have so far focused on making cuts that have the least impact on our service to you, but as the recession deepens, the sad truth is that you will begin to see an erosion in library services.

In 2009, we reduced the library budget by 10%--a combination of falling property values and the vote by the board of trustees in August 2008 to voluntarily lower the library millage rate to reduce the burden on our economically-stressed taxpayers. In 2010, we are facing an additional cut of 6% to 10%. The total cuts over these two years will total more than $1 million from the library's 2008 budget of $6.4 million. We can no longer avoid making cuts that will affect your experience at the library.

Why is library revenue declining?

  • About 93% of our revenue comes from property taxes; as property values have fallen, our property tax revenues have also declined. The voters of Canton originally approved a library funding rate of 2.0 mills, which has been eroded by Headlee to 1.5437 mills. In August of 2008, recognizing the toll that the recession was taking on our taxpayers, the library board voted to voluntarily reduce the library millage to 1.4980, cutting your taxes by $6 for every $100,000 in taxable value.
  • State revenue sharing has declined; while Public Act 89 of 1977 mandates state funding of $1.50 per capita for public libraries in Michigan, the actual amount the state budgeted for 2009 was $.96 per capita, and state budget cuts have taken that down even further, to $.92 per capita for 2009 and a projected $.85 per capita for 2010.
  • Interest on investments, county penal fine sharing, and donations to the library are also down compared to previous years.

The irony is that the library budget is declining while library usage has increased more than 25% since 2007. Over the last year we've reduced our spending on "behind the scenes" activities to minimize the impact on our public. We've streamlined our internal processes, reduced our headcount, eliminated redundancies and unnecessary steps, and pulled together as a team to come up with ways to continue serving you with excellence despite having less money. I am proud of my staff for their creativity and flexibility in facing these tough cuts. We have been able, for the most part, to continue to meet your expectations for excellent library service, and are the definition of "doing more with less."

For 2010 we must make further cuts to reach a balanced budget. We are looking at cutting our staffing, materials, programming, marketing, technology, and training lines, which means that for you, our public, there will be a noticeable difference. You'll see it in our programming, with fewer sessions and larger audience sizes. You'll see it in our collections, as we will not be able to purchase as many titles or copies of titles as we have in the past. You'll see it in our research offerings, as we cut expensive electronic subscriptions and magazines that we can no longer afford. You'll see it in increased wait times for checkout, longer lines at service desks, and longer hold times when you call us as we stretch our shrinking staff. We'll print fewer bookmarks, fewer Connections newsletters, and fewer flyers. We'll stretch our hardware and software, squeezing a few more years of service out of them to avoid replacement costs.

Please respond to this post with your comments on our 2010 budget. In a time where the library can no longer provide everything to which you are now accustomed, what do you think we should cut? What should we preserve? What is important to you, our library patrons? We want to hear from you!

Eva M. Davis, Director


Mon, 2009-06-22 22:50

I appreciate the sentiment behind cutting the millage rate last year. However, for the cost of a McDonald's value meal, I would have much rather seen the library utilizing the funds to maintain the high quality of service Canton residents have come to appreciate. I am curious to know how much of an impact this has had on the library's budget. There doesn't seem to have been a lot of forethought put into this decision and the long-term implications it is having.

Tue, 2009-06-23 09:47

Thanks for your comment, jtlee136! The library tax reduction from 1.5437 to 1.4980 mills represented about one-third of the budget cut for 2009, or about $200,000 of $600,000. The remainder of the cut was the result of falling property values and the other items I mention above. Our 2008 budget was about $6.4 million, and our 2009 budget is currently about $5.8 million.

Restoring the millage rate to 1.5437 will reduce the degree of the cuts that we have to make to reach a balanced budget in 2010, but not enough to eliminate the cuts all together. I will let the library board know that you support levying the full millage rate for 2010, and if you have ideas or opinions about where we should focus our cuts, please share them!

Tue, 2009-06-23 10:51

Thank you for providing the public an opportunity to comment on what is most important to us as patrons. Personally, I think the library could cut back on how many copies of bestsellers they purchase. I would rather wait longer for a bestseller than have the library not purchase new authors or nonfiction titles. Also, while I have benefitted from the lucky day collection in the Adult department I wonder how much money would be saved if it was eliminated. Finally, while I know I'm talking about your staff's paycheck, as a patron I would have no problem with the library closing at 5 instead of 6 on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. I don't know if these type of cuts would be just a drop in the bucket, but I do think they could all be reversed quickly once the budget rebounds.

Tue, 2009-06-23 18:33

Bookgirl, thanks for your ideas. We will be cutting our materials budget and buying fewer copies of bestsellers. This will mean a longer wait if you are on hold for an item. The Lucky Day collection was developed to provide serendipity of browsing for patrons and also to cut down on the length of the hold list, and I appreciate your comment as a user of the Lucky Day collection that you would be willing to give that collection up and wait a little longer on the hold list instead.

Closures are something we are investigating. Unfortunately, to realize any significant cost savings, we would not be able to simply open an hour later or close an hour earlier; the staff cost savings are negligible and the utility cost savings are even less. We are looking into one-day library closures, possibly adjacent to a holiday closure, that would be unpaid furlough days for staff. Closures of this nature would give us both salary and utility cost savings to the tune of about $6,000 per day. The Seattle Public Library recently announced that they will shut down for one week--an unpaid furlough for staff--to resolve their financial crisis. Doing something similar here would bring us $50,000 closer to our balanced budget.

Tue, 2009-06-23 11:21

Hello and thank you for your timely message. Unfortunately, I think I've already sensed the "squeeze" on the CPL & am not looking forward to further cutbacks. You've done a wonderful job on creating more computer and internet access, though. You should be very happy & proud of that accomplisment. Suggestion: you may want to shut off the "waterfall" out in the back during these unhappy times. The aquarium could also be taken down and the fish sold or donated to local businesses, aquariums and or homes - as cruel as that may sound. This may seem cruel, too, but the library is getting more crowded with patrons who genuinely need the space and services provided. Some days they get crowded out by the 'bussing in' of the profoundly disabled. These poor folks are incapable of using the space and services like the rest of us. Is this service really necessary? I apologize in advance for these comments. But, these are pretty tough times for all.

Tue, 2009-06-23 18:34

georgek1029, I assure you that we are not looking forward to further cutbacks, either! We have been reducing and will continue to work on reducing our utilities costs. The waterfall visible from the fireplace area recycles the water that's in the pond, so as with the fish tank, there are no additional water costs (assuming we don't spring a leak and have to refill)--you are correct that there are electricity and maintenance costs, however. We plan on performing an energy audit to identify impactful ways in which we can save your tax dollars through energy improvements.

Refusing to allow the disabled or group home residents to use the library is not something we can do, and I'm not sure I understand where the cost savings would come into play. The group homes in our community pay taxes for library service and their residents are entitled to use the library, unless they are breaking the law or violating our rules.

Tue, 2009-06-23 12:39

This is probably the most successful library in the state as far as patron usage,internet access, children,s programs,etc. is concerned. We can't change what has already been set as far as taxes and cutbacks, but we can make the necessary adjustments to bring us back up to being our former status. This means putting forth all our efforts toward that end. My suggestions are: create an endowment, ask some corporations for donations, holding fund raisers, raising awareness of our situation in all media. If necessary I would be willing to pay for some of the dvd's available, maybe on a sliding scale. E.G. 10 cents for newer dvd's.5 cents for one year older or more.

Tue, 2009-06-23 18:32

rbirch, I appreciate your fundraising ideas. The library has established an Endowment Fund, currently at about $230,000, and has pledged not to draw on the interest until the principal reaches $1 million. I hope that you and others in the community will consider making a contribution to our endowment fund, or generally to the library's operating fund. We used to receive a number of corporate matching gifts, although with the downturn in the economy that has dwindled, as well. Your suggestion for corporate sponsorships is an interesting one, and I'd like to hear what others think of having the "Fish Doctors Aquarium" or the "IKEA Storytime." Libraries I know of who have done corporate sponsorships like this have found that it's not been well-received in their communities--would it work in Canton?

By far, our biggest fundraiser is our Friends of the Library group, who run our Second Hand Prose used bookstore. The Friends have been great fundraisers for the library and I will take your suggestion for more opportunities and see what we can work out with them.

We've had a number of articles appear in the Canton Observer, most recently on June 11, and in the Canton Eagle about how the recession is affecting public libraries. The Today Show recently ran a segment that aired nationally on this issue. You are correct that we clearly need to keep working on getting our message out, though.

I am interested in hearing what others think about charging fees for library materials beyond overdue fines and replacement costs. Is it fair, or equitable, or acceptable, for us to take your tax dollars, buy books or DVDs with that money, and then make you pay for it again if you want to check it out?

Thu, 2009-07-02 12:57

Charging for library services really goes against the grain for me. On one hand, Ben Franklin would spin in his grave - the whole point of a public library, to me, is so that the young and those lacking money can take advantage of every possible asset for free. On the other, even though I can afford it, I would personally tend to stay away from services which charge a fee. I don't like the idea of charging for children's programming either.

I would far prefer to donate to your endowment or operating fund. Before I moved to Canton, I would donate to Dearborn each year for book purchases in my preferred genre (science fiction). It might help to make people more aware of the Michigan tax credit for donations to public libraries, I believe it is 50% of up to $200 per year.

I sat on the FOLD board for several years, and had almost no success getting corporate donations. We've certainly done book plaques for personal donations, and brass plaques for physical improvement to the library, and I think the Friends or library newsletter is an appropriate place to recognize corporate sponsorship. I would not personally have a problem with recognizing that programming items were brought to you by a corporate sponsor.

I like the Canton Friends' bookstore better than the FOLD gift shop. I supported and worked on the idea, but wouldn't recommend selling things that aren't related to reading in any way... of course, FOLD did regular book sales instead of having a shop.

- Chad Childers

Tue, 2009-06-23 13:25

I would hate to see the storytimes disappear. I would be willing to pay $5-$10/child for storytime. I also agree with rbirch's post about charging 5-10 cents for dvd's. I would hope most people would be willing to help out such a great library!

Tue, 2009-06-23 18:39

aaossey, thanks for your compliments of our storytimes! They are, as you know, incredibly popular in a family-oriented community like Canton. We will be increasing the class size of storytimes to help us meet demand without increasing our costs, and we are adding more drop-in storytimes to meet demand.

As I replied to rbirch's comment, I am interested to read what others have to say about the library charging a fee to check out materials or attend a program. Right now we don't charge a check out fee--your tax dollars having already paid for the materials--although we do charge fines for overdue items and replacement costs. As the economy worsens and more of our neighbors lose their jobs, would charging a fee to check out materials make the library out-of-reach for the most vulnerable in our community?

Wed, 2009-06-24 07:09

I agree that there should not be a charge for books/internet as those are very important to kids in school and those looking for jobs. The DVDs and video games however are an extra we are lucky to have at our library. Yes our tax dollars paid for them but I really think 5-10cents (not per day, just per dvd or game) would not put anything out of reach. The Library where I used to live charged $1 for DVD's and no one ever seemed to mind. It was still a lot cheaper than renting. For the storytime, once again I understand you do not want to exclude, maybe you charge only $1-$2per child for the "sessions" and leave he open family storytimes free. That way there are still free events. Rather than see things canceled I think you should try charging a small fee. I know it is small but it might add up. Thought I would clarify. Thanks.

Tue, 2009-06-23 14:35

I have been a very active library patron for 19 years and have seen a lot of the changes in our library over the years. I love the feeling of "energy" and excitement I sense in the other users when I walk in.

I agree with another poster in that one area that could be cut back is the bestseller/new book area. Do we really need 32 copies of Finger Lickin' Fifteen? It does seem excessive. I put many books on hold, but do not expect to read them the first week they come out. I am willing to wait my turn. You offer many nice programs for the youth, but do we really need gaming and art classes? Maybe a small charge for materials would be appropriate at registration for these art classes. I know the number of computers has been recently increased, but do we really need 100 computers? Do we really need the "entertainment" types of programs (Joel Tracey, Baffling Bill, etc) as the community already provides this type of thing?

I am in favor of eliminating these "non-core" library areas that maybe are not the central role of a library. I feel that on-line research access, books, magazines, book clubs, children's storytime, and community computer access should be maintained. I find these items to be the vital and central purpose of a library.

Finally, I know cutting hours may be unpopular, but you used to open at 1PM on Sun and closed at 5PM on Fri, Sat, Sun. Maybe it is time to return to those hours.

Tue, 2009-06-23 18:44

kimives, thanks for your comments and longtime support of the library! Identifying the services you believe are core for the library to provide is very helpful as we study our budget.

We will be cutting our programming and materials budgets, and as I responded to Bookgirl, we are looking at library closures as well. Weekend hours are our busiest, along with evenings, and we will take checkout statistics and the number of people coming through the door into account as we compare busy days to not-as-busy days.

Tue, 2009-06-23 17:53

With the latest improvements to the web site, couldn't the connections newsletter be discontinued as print media and make it an electronic newsletter. Or have people opt-in to a print newsletter. I know I personally don't need to receive the printed newsletter.

Tue, 2009-06-23 18:52

tfastje, thanks for your comment! Scaling back on or eliminating our Connections newsletter is a cut that we are considering. Our annual costs for printing and mailing the newsletter are more than $60,000.

As we conducted focus groups and solicited comments from the public about our 2009-2011 Strategic Plan, the newsletter came up again and again as something our patrons look for in their mail and rely upon for information about programs, events, and other library news. Perhaps you are right and we have reached the tipping point where our online program calendar and website posts can replace the printed newsletter--what do you all think?

Mon, 2010-07-26 12:13
An online calendar of events is a good idea, and people should consider signing up for an *email* newsletter instead. This would not only save the costs for printing & mailing, but is better for the environment.
Tue, 2009-06-23 18:27

My thanks to all of you for your responses and ideas. As the library faces a $350,000 to $600,000 budget cut for 2010, knowing that you support the library and our efforts to be fiscally responsible is gratifying. I will attempt to respond to your questions and comments individually, as replies to each comment. I hope that my additional information will contribute to this conversation, and maybe even spark additional ideas.

Thank you for your support and encouragement as we work on a balanced budget for 2010.

Wed, 2009-06-24 11:28

I would suggest that the library start charging $1 to rent video games and movies. That is still a great value compared to local video stores. With the number of holds that there are on new book releases, I think the case could be made for charging a rental fee for books that have only been out for a few months.

As far as the newsletter, the library could accept advertising and the advertising fees could pay for the newsletter.

Thu, 2009-06-25 15:54

Thanks for your comments, steve99. The idea of charging for items has support from several people who have commented here, so I've asked our tech staff to see what kind of statistics we have on initial checkouts of specific material types so we can estimate the impact charging for new books, DVDs, music CDs, etc. would have on our budget deficit. I will post that information here and present it to the library board along with everyone's comments.

Selling advertisements in the newsletter is an interesting idea. We will look into that--the total cost of printing and postage for the newsletter is about $10,000 per issue.

Mon, 2010-07-26 12:15
I agree with this comment. The Livonia Library charges a nominal fee for DVD rentals, and I don't mind paying it because it is still way cheaper than a video store, you can keep the materials for 1-2 weeks, and I'd much rather give my money to a Library than a corporation!
Wed, 2009-06-24 11:32

While I think that all the above ideas are something to look into, I believe that the CPL has done an AMAZING job thus far doing more with less. I was privileged to be a part of the recent strategic planning process and I have a ton of respect for how the CPL is planning for the future not only be being frugal but by accessing what the needs of the community are and planning programs, services and collections that truly provide value.

So to the CPL community I ask, what can WE do to give back? Many of the programs are led by volunteers and the cost is not in who is providing the service. Can we all donate a little extra time, money or books to support the Friends of the Library? Could we support the library in fund raising efforts in other ways?

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." Margaret Mead

Thu, 2009-06-25 15:57

Thank you for your compliments, skturbokitty! We have a great staff and a great community supporting the library; that forces beyond all of our control have created the need for cuts is very disheartening to me, too. I appreciate your positive thoughts and I hope that others will be inspired by what you've written.

Wed, 2009-06-24 13:22

I really appreciate having such a great library to use and I understand that in these tough times services and materials must be cut. One suggestion is to email the Connections newsletter instead of printing it or even just posting it on this website each month. I also wouldn't mind paying a small fee to borrow video games and movies. Paying a dollar or two for a movie for a week is still a much better deal than video rental stores. I don't know if this would work, but maybe there could be two options when you place a movie or video game on hold: one for people who are willing to pay a dollar and then could keep the movie or game for a week and one for people who want to check out the movie or game for free, but then could only keep it for three days or some other shorter time. Also, the Plymouth library sells their old magazines that patrons are no longer borrowing for $.25. I think the Friends could do that at Secondhand Prose and raise a little extra money. I would be happy to pay that much for magazines to take on long car trips or to just read at home.

Thu, 2009-06-25 16:00

talcord554, thanks for adding to the discussion. Because this idea has so much support, we're working on an estimate of how much money would be generated by charging for new books, DVDs, and other items and how that would impact our budget deficit. I'll post that here and present it to the library board along with all of the comments, including yours, that we've received.

Wed, 2009-06-24 16:20

Ms. Davis,

First, I would like to thank you and the library staff for providing such excellent services to the community.

I would suggest analyzing the library usage data on a day of the week basis and close for one day/week. My initial proposal would be on Fridays as the hours are already reduced. This would reduce not only staffing cost, but also the cost of utilities.

I sympathize with your predicament because the library needs to be accessible to all patrons. I would think of eliminating print material (ie. Connections, flyers) but not everyone has access to the library electronically.

An idea similar to above would be to prioritize the collection purchases. For example are books more important than DVDs and DVDs more important than video games. I don't have the answer to that and it would definitely depend on what type of patron you ask. Would it be possible to allow patrons to donate new materials to the library that could be put into the lending collection? I know now that donated used books are sold in the second hand store...

Thu, 2009-06-25 16:27

telktrot, you are welcome! It is a pleasure for everyone at the library to work in such a great community. We strive to meet your expectations, and I thank you for sharing your priorities with us. We want to make sure we know what's important to you when you use the library, and work to preserve those services, or at least to minimize cuts. The possibility of permanent library closure days is on the table, although as you noted it is a predicament because so many people need us right now. We'd like to avoid doing that to our patrons for as long as possible. As I mentioned, we are looking into the cost savings of closing additional days throughout the year, perhaps adjacent to holiday closures to achieve more utility cost savings. Thank you for your comments!

Mon, 2010-07-26 12:19
"Would it be possible to allow patrons to donate new materials to the library that could be put into the lending collection?" I like this idea as well. I myself have donated some new, unused books & videos to the library, but I think they ended up being sold in the store, not put into the collections. Could a special bin be set up where patrons could specifically donate NEW materials (vs. used ones) which might be put into lending circulation?
Thu, 2009-06-25 04:13

First, I want to thank the Canton Library for being the outstanding library they have become. As a long time resident of Canton, I remember when the library was a room in City Hall, only open 9-5. You have come so far, to be the amazing Nationally recognized award winning library of today.

So many comments have mentioned possibly deleting some of the outstanding features our library offers, but, many of these features are what has placed our library in a class of it's own. Talk about free, that is one of the biggest differences between our library and most other libraries. I believe that during these hard times, that most people and especially families need an alternative to costly outings, no longer affordable in their budgets.

And, I thank the library for cutting my taxes, but, I would like to start a campaign to voluntarly donate that $8 back to the library with the hope that other residents will do the same. I had no idea that I pay so little for so much...what a bargain.

Did you know that the Canton Library opens their doors to a high percentage of residents from other cities. Possibly, these welcome guests, would not mind paying to use our library. If I pay $8 and they pay nothing, possibly they could pay $10 or what ever the library thinks is fair.

Large corporate sponsors are hurting too, but, it would be worth trying.

So, I am asking those people who use the library to donate a $1 on their next visit or a much as they can afford. Set a goal, start a tally board, set out donation boxes and ask for help. Next time you pay an overdue fine, tell the staff to keep the change. Every little bit will help.

Let us stand behind this great library and show our appreciation for all the library offers to us. Get the word out, tell your neighbors and friends that we can make a differnce.

Thu, 2009-06-25 17:06

Thank you, cantonrs, for your compliments! I, too, remember when the library was across the boulevard. I also remember when there was no library in Canton at all and my family went to Plymouth for library services. We have certainly come a long way in less than 30 years.

I am always careful when I talk about the library to say that library services are provided at no additional cost, rather than free--library services have costs associated with them, and those costs are funded primarily through property taxes.

It is true that non-Canton residents use our library; if they wish to have full access to all that we offer, they may purchase an orange CPL card for $170 per year, which is what the average Canton homeowner pays. Otherwise, non-residents receive limited services from us: They cannot place requests to hold materials; they cannot register for some programs, or must wait for Canton cardholders to register first; they cannot use our interlibrary loan service; and some are limited as to the number of our materials they may check out at one time.

We have reciprocal borrowing agreements with our neighboring libraries, and we can cancel those agreements, which would prevent non-CPL cardholders from using many of our services. It would also prevent Canton residents from using those other libraries, so we would not be able to use our cards to checkout materials from Plymouth, Livonia, Westland, etc. It's a trade-off. I am interested in reading if people think that severing our agreements with other libraries is something we should investigate.

We would certainly appreciate donations, which are always welcome! Designating "operating fund" on the memo line of your check will ensure that it is used to offset our budget deficit. All credit card donations and undesignated donations are deposited into our endowment fund, which ensures the long-term viability of the library because we cannot touch the principal, and can only draw on the earnings when we've reached $1 million. We are currently at $230,000.

Mon, 2010-07-26 12:25
As a Westland resident, I hope you do NOT decide that non-Canton residents cannot use the Libray. CPL is in my opinion the best Library in the immediate area. I don't mind not being able to place holds, borrowing limits for non-residents, etc.; because I can't afford the $170 for the orange card (the economy again *_*). I don't even mind paying a nominal fee to borrow DVDs or something like that in the future, but PLEASE don't sever the reciprocal ties with other Libraries! :(
Thu, 2009-06-25 12:02

I visited your library last night for the first time. First, I have to say what a beautiful library!! I am a resident of Farmington and used your library to borrow some materials that my libraries did not have. I chose to visit your location rather than use the inter-libary loan (I wanted the books a bit sooner). Second, I would be more than willing to pay a "service fee" or other type of fee to borrow from or use your library. I realize the cost benefit of of that type of fee may be small but, speaking only for myself, would be willing to pay it to help you maintain your beautiful facility.

Thu, 2009-06-25 17:11

Thank you, mkn4124, for using our library and for your compliments. Our reciprocal borrowing agreement with the Farmington Community Library allows you to use your FCL card here, and for Canton residents to use their CPL card at Farmington.

As I mention in my reply to cantonrs, I am interested in reading people's opinions on whether we should sever those joint use agreements, which would mean that any non-Canton resident who wished to use our services would have to purchase a CPL card. Currently, that card costs $170 per year, which is the amount an average homeowner pays for library services. The downside of cancelling our joint use agreements is that Canton residents would no longer be able to use their cards at other libraries, and would be subject to their non-resident rules.

Thu, 2009-06-25 12:19


The Canton library is in a class of its own. During boom times when this was affordable, I commend you. Now that we are in a severe state of financial recession, it is time to cut back on the cake frosting and return to our roots. The library should not be a substitute for blockbuster video or the local music store. Our base role is reading and reading material. While the majority of patrons are honest good people, we have a small group of shoplifters that steal music CD's and movie DVD's. These items are expensive to replace. I estimate a savings of $50,000 per year if you eliminate, reduce or charge a nominal fee of $1.00 per checkout for these types of materials.

I respect your earlier response to a similar suggestion where you stated that it would be unfair to charge for material that has been paid for by tax dollars. I respectfully disagree when it comes to discretionary items that are well beyond the library's mandate. No other library in the state has the number of movies and music cd's as Canton. I have noticed that we even receive movie DVD's before the retail movie rental outlets. I would have no issue with paying a couple of dollars to rent these movies. Frankly, I am surprised that our library has not received a legal challenge for providing free movie DVD's in unfair competition with retail establishments.

There is no doubt that the Canton library is the epitome of community libraries. There is also no doubt that our current state of service is unsustainable. Cutting weekend overtime and adding more workload to an already under paid and under staffed workforce is not the answer. The staff has given much to the patrons. It is time for the patrons to give something back to the library. Enforcing penalty fees for lost, damaged and late returned books is a start. People that don't follow the rules are a small portion of the community and should be held accountable for their disservice to their neighbors. Limiting the number of items that can be checked out at one time is a necessary second step that should be taken. I have seen single patrons checking out 20 to 50 items at one time. These are the very patrons that consistently lose, damage or return materials late and then have their fines forgiven. By them hoarding an excessive amount of library material at one time, they deprive others of the material and force the library to order more duplicate materials than otherwise would be necessary.

Eva, while I respect your desire to provide all to everyone, it cannot be done in today's environment. It is not unreasonable for the library to charge fines to those that violate rules and to not provide the latest and greatest in movies and music without charging a minimal fee.

Thu, 2009-06-25 18:45

Thank you, avidreader, for sharing your thoughts. I can remember checking out vinyl record albums from the CPL as a child. Even back then, the notion that public libraries are just about books, and only about books, was no longer true. Books remain a foundation of our services, but one of the reasons that CPL is so well-loved and supported by our community is because we remain relevant to them, and that includes staying current with changes.

This philosophy of serving our community by providing them with the services and collections they want is not new; it has been the philosophy of the library board and library staff since Deborah O'Connor was hired as the first library director in 1979/80, and it was under the longtime leadership of previous director Jean Tabor that this philosophy guided us to become the library we are today.

Our statistics on checkouts of non-book items bear out how important providing these materials is to our patrons--while books are 90% of our collection, checkout rates are almost evenly split between books and non-books. While I agree that we do have a great collection of audiovisual materials, we don't even crack the top ten ranking of public libraries in the state with the largest collections of movies and music.

Library of Michigan data show that public libraries serving more than 50,000 people, which includes CPL, spend an average of 21% of their materials budgets on non-book materials. We are right around that average, spending a little more than a quarter of our materials budget on non-book items; 51% on books; and the remainder on electronic resources and research databases.

I have no statistics at hand comparing our shrink rate on books to our shrink rate on non-books. We're in the process of a system inventory, but it's slow going because we haven't worked on it as much as we would like due to being so busy! One of the difficulties in making sweeping generalizations is that they can't be proven or disproven. I will try to find out where we are with our inventory so we have some hard numbers to discuss, and I will post what I find out.

I have also not seen any studies or statistics from our staff showing that patrons who checkout lots of materials results in greater numbers of loss or damage by those patrons. We have adopted and adhere to the Library Code of Ethics, which every library employee reads and signs at hire, and do not judge our patrons based on what, or how many, items they checkout. Checking materials out, checking materials back in--it's part of our jobs as library employees.

We collect a little more than $200,000 annually in overdue fines and replacement charges for lost/damaged materials, and we will continue to work with patrons on payment plans and other arrangements that will allow them to keep their library privileges during this recession, which is when they need the library the most.

I agree that this recession is affecting the library; the purpose of my original post was to be upfront and honest with the community about the current and future revenue shortfalls--because they will continue beyond 2010, into 2011 and possibly as far as 2013, depending on which economist you believe. Cuts must happen, to all parts of our operating budget. Staff wages and benefits account for 53% of our spending; materials account for 13%. At a combined 66%, they are our two biggest expenditures, and creating a balanced budget without touching them is unlikely.

Several commenters have said that they'd be willing to pay checkout fees for new books, movies, and music. We're working on revenue estimates if we charged those fees, and I will post them here when we have them.

Tue, 2009-07-14 09:23

Our ongoing inventory process shows that, of the 14,173 DVDs inventoried so far, 5 were not found. Of 12,072 CDs, 37 were not found. On a percentage basis, .03% of DVDs and .3% of CDs are unaccounted for. The industry guidelines for "shrink" say that 5% is typical, so we are well below that, not even hitting one-half of one-percent. That said, we're not done with our inventory yet!

Thu, 2009-06-25 17:10

In response to avidreader, who admits that we are in a "severe state of financial recession" - I would consider receiving regular overtime on the weekends "frosting on the cake" and I am sure there are thousands of unemployed Michigan residents who would have gladly given up overtime in order to keep their jobs.

Thu, 2009-06-25 19:05

Thanks to my crack technology staff, I have some estimates on the revenue that would be generated if the library charged fees at checkout for DVDs, CDs, new books, and videogames.

Adult New Books: Initial checkouts for the last year total 49,000. A charge of $.05 per book at checkout = $2,450. A charge of $.10 per book at checkout = $4,900. A charge of $1 per book at checkout = $49,000.

Feature DVDs for all ages and TV series DVDs for all ages: Initial checkouts for the last year total 428,000. A charge of $.05 per DVD at checkout = $21,400. A charge of $.10 per DVD at checkout = $42,800. A charge of $1 per DVD at checkout = $428,000.

Music CDs for all ages: Initial checkouts for the last year total 104,000. A charge of $.05 per CD at checkout = $5,200. A charge of $.10 per CD at checkout = $10,400. A charge of $1 per CD at checkout = $104,000.

Videogames for all ages: Initial checkouts for the last year total 19,700. A charge of $.05 per videogame at checkout = $985. A charge of $.10 per videogame at checkout = $1,970. A charge of $1 per videogame at checkout = $19,700.

Please remember that these are estimates and do not take into account declines in circulation or collection size if we eliminate these formats, cut the budget for these formats, or if patrons choose not to pay the fee (and therefore don't checkout the item).

Tell us your thoughts!

Thu, 2009-06-25 23:17

I reviewed several of the comments posted by others and there were a lot of good suggestions for cost savings.

Regarding the Canton Connection Publication, the suggestion was to eliminate the hard copy. As stated by the libray, many of the patrons do not have internet access and rely on this publication to receive news of upcoming events. In order to ensure those who wanted to receive the publication continued to receive it, the library could send out postcards requesting that residents simply check a box of yes or no on if they want to continue to receive the publication in hard copy form. The postcard should also note that no response will be the same as stating they no longer require a hard copy. The library would then be able reduce the mailing list to include only those residents who requested the hard copy. In order to make sure the new residents have an opportunity to receive the hard copy, a self stamped postcard should be included in the information packet received by new residents.
Many of the schools in the district already have a similar program that eliminates the need for newsletters to be printed, and parents can go online at any time to see what is going on. I think this program is great.

I also liked the suggestion to put out a donation box. Many people are having a difficult time now and simply cannot contribute a large dollar amount to any type of fund; however, if there is a box, people are more likely to drop in a dollar or two. With the amount of traffic in the library, these donations could add up very quickly.

I would hate to see the library sever their agreements with other libraries. This is a feature I use often. Several authors have written series and I have found that only a few books of the series are available in our library, but once requested the books are forwarded to our library so I can continue on with the series, or simply read all of the books written by a particular author. This is a benefit not only to Canton residents, but to residents in other communities as well who may have the same situation in their hometown.

I would also urge anyone who purchases books, whether at a garage sale, a new book store, or a used book store, to donate the book to the library once you have read it. Many people sell their books for $0.50 to $1.00 at their garage sales, these books would be worth a great deal more to the library and to it's patrons.

One of the services you offer that I have recently found out about is the Hold system. I sincerly hope that this will not be something that is cut. I have a difficult time walking and have found this system to be very helpful. I am able to go online to look up various authors and books, request the books, and pick them up from the hold shelf which is located close to the doors. This has made it much easier for me to checkout items, and eliminated my need to request help from others when I want to check out a book.

Wed, 2009-07-01 10:01

Thank you, crobbinslibrary, for your additional comments and suggestions. I am glad to hear that you find our request system and self-pickup of your holds to be convenient. Several others echo your sentiments about our reciprocal borrowing agreements with neighboring libraries. While we can't solicit donations with a "tip jar" or something similar, I hope that you and others who are interested will consider donating to the library. Donations are tax-deductible, and indicating on your check whether the donation is for our endowment fund or for library operations will ensure that we apply the funds as you intend. Our marketing manager, Laurie Golden, comments later in this thread about the suggestions for our Connections newsletter.

Thanks again for sharing your feedback with us!

Fri, 2009-06-26 01:50

After reading the above comments, many of the suggestions seemed sound, and the only one I am vehemently against would be the removal of the interlibrary agreements. I frequently use the Plymouth Library if an item I want is not available at Canton, or even if it is just checked out. While I much prefer Canton, I would be saddened if a resource I have enjoyed in the past was removed. However, I would not mind being charged a nominal fee on a regular basis (quarterly/yearly/etc) to use the other libraries; perhaps Canton could put something similar into effect for non-Canton patrons.

In regard to charging a fee to check out certain materials, I find this to be unnecessary for "Lucky Day" books. Though our library is certainly wonderful because it offers multiple types of media, as a library it is still a bastion of reading. I also feel charging a fee for CDs is counterintuitive; I believe it is not uncommon for patrons to rip music from library CDs, so if this became more expensive than buying the music, such as on iTunes, fewer people would utilize the music collection. However, I see limited downsides to charging a small fee for DVDs. I know I personally would have no qualms as long as the fee was well under that of local video rental stores, such as $1/week, as other commenters have suggested.

One commenter mentioned how the library can over-buy for new, popular materials, and I agree. However, there is quite a demand when something is first released. Could the library then sell some copies of the books at the secondhand bookstore once demand has subsided? (This could be analyzed based on check-out rates.) Additionally, I am unsure if donated books are only sold at the secondhand book store, but I feel donated materials in relatively good condition could be added to the library's collection.

Other commenters have also brought up fines. I know I have accrued fines and not paid them off for some time simply because I prefer to use self-check-out. Perhaps there is some way to have the self-check-out machines give some sort of message directing patrons to the check-out desk if fines are present on the card. I know I find being verbally prompted by a librarian about my fines generally leads to me paying them off at that time.

One last idea I had that I did not see previously mentioned is the use of volunteers. Personally, I volunteer at the Plymouth Library shelving materials; I would certainly be interested doing the same at Canton. If, unfortunately, staff cuts do need to made, the effect would most likely be less felt if members of the community were willing to contribute their time, even if it was only a few hours a week.

Despite the overall gloomy tone, I'd really like to congratulate the Canton Library on everything it has done. It was one of my favorite places to go when I was little and it has continued to meet my needs thoroughly as I have gotten older.

Wed, 2009-07-01 10:09

Thank you, pseudopenname, for your comments about the library's budget cuts. I agree that everyone here--from staff to volunteers to trustees--has really pulled together to minimize the impact that library budget cuts have had on the community, and I know that your compliments will go a long way to boost everyone's spirits, thank you.

Library materials that are withdrawn from our collection are offered to the Friends of the Library for sale in their Second Hand Prose used bookstore. Conversely, items donated to Second Hand Prose may be added to the library collection.

We will, as part of our Strategic Plan, work to enhance our current volunteer program, and my staff have already begun making improvements to it. We use volunteers to shelve materials, repair materials, and process materials. Volunteers also work in Second Hand Prose, sorting donations, pricing items, shelving them, and staffing the store itself. You'll find more information about volunteering on our website.

Fri, 2009-06-26 11:32

I think that the most important resources for me at the library are the website and online features and the breadth of materials offered. I think it is a good idea to cut the number of bestsellers purchased, because you already need to wait a long time for a hold on those anyways. For example, instead of waiting for months on hold for the newest Harry Potter books, I just bought them. The library should focus more on having lots of more offbeat fiction and research offerings.

So, the online services and material breadth are two things I think the library should avoid cutting.

Wed, 2009-07-01 10:10

Thank you, mghastin, for letting us know what you would like to see preserved in the library's budget.

Fri, 2009-06-26 12:49

I know times are tough so I guess it's no surprise that libraries are getting hit as well. As an avid reader and visitor at CPL though this one really hurts. Sometimes I think you guys could stay afloat on my late fees alone, but I guess that's not the case!

I first want to say that I probably regularly visit 5-10 libraries in the metro area and CPL is my favorite - you guys always seem to have a good mix of old and new books, CD's, etc. Employees have always been very professional and knowledgeable. Also you were way out there in terms of having a great / useful website. Thank you to you and your staff for making the extra effort to maintain a great library in this economic climate - it shows.

A few thoughts...

- Library millage should go back to 1.5437 - I appreciate the sentiment but I don't think anyone would mind an extra $6 to help maintain programs that teach kids to read, etc.

- Libraries should get behind digital media like the Amazon Kindle or iPhone - instead of buying a bunch of new books they buy one electronic one and let users download.

- One of the best things about a library is that it's "free" (I realize our taxes subsidize it but you know what I mean). I'm concerned (and it looks like you are also) that the benefits of a library also go to lower-income or underserved parts of the population. Our culture seems to want to privatize *everything* and make a buck off it (health care, prisons, education, etc), sometimes it seems like libraries are the last bastion of the utopian idea that there should be things that we all share as a community. So in theory I would not support charging for library materials, but having said that I would probably continue to check books out if I had to pay a nominal fee. This is a slippery slope though. Computers / net access should remain free - in recessions people need these to search for jobs to feed their families.

- I agree with previous posts that the reciprocal borrowing agreements (does this include MEL?) should stay in place... in an age in which information is getting more widely disseminated and transparent I would hate to see libraries retreat turtle-style into their own little self-funded silos. Also from a macroeconomic perspective it makes more sense... why should libraries have to buy 1000 copies of Harry Potter when we can have 500 copies and share among libraries?

- $60k for the newsletter? Kill it or at least offer an opt-out option. An alternative is an email newsletter.

- Donation box is a good idea. If the kid at Dairy King can get a few bucks with it the library should be able to snag a few.

Thanks again for the job you guys are doing... the very act of being so transparent about your finances and thinking (and opening this up to the community at large) prove what a quality program we have here in Canton. I'll be giving to the Endowment Fund to help out.

Wed, 2009-07-01 10:21

chaddattilio, thank you for your compliments of my staff! We have worked hard this year to minimize the impact of these budget cuts on our patrons, and it helps a lot to know that you recognize our efforts. I will take everyone's comments, including yours, about the millage rate to the library board for their consideration.

Your comment about Kindles and e-books is prescient; while we already provide downloadable e-books and audiobooks, we are also looking into providing Kindles to the public. One item holding us back is that Amazon has not included language in their Kindle use agreements that would allow libraries to purchase a Kindle and circulate it or allow multiple downloads of one purchased Kindle copy. A few libraries in the U.S. have started lending Kindles despite this, and we are watching what the outcome or consequences may be.

I appreciate you sharing your thoughts on paying a checkout fee for items, and on reciprocal borrowing. While this does not necessarily include MeL interlibrary loan, with the state's budget cuts the library industry is closing monitoring state funding for MeL--if that is cut at the state level, individual libraries would have to self-fund MeL interlibrary loan, which may include passing some or all of the charges on to users.

Our marketing manager posted separately about the Connections newsletter, and she does a far better job than I do explaining the intricacies of bulk mail and bulk printing.

Thanks again, chaddattilio, for your comments and your donations!

Fri, 2009-06-26 15:55

I would like to say that the Canton Library does a great job providing a wealth of materials that our family uses, and we would hate to see you stop providing things like DVDs, videogames, and other non-book items just because they are not books. We are not able to afford to rent games or movies for a fee, and to know that our tax dollars allow us to check those items out like we do books is a savior for us! Some people might be old school and think that non-book items are not as important, but for families they totally are! We have our videogame system and we use that to watch movies on DVD from the library and play games from the library. In this economy we do not have the money to spend on Comcast or Netflix or Blockbuster. Please do not eliminate the materials that mean so much to us. We love the library for all the many things you do and this is just one of them but it is a very important thing to us.

Wed, 2009-07-01 10:23

cantonfam, thank you for sharing your thoughts on the library's budget cuts and how adding a checkout fee or eliminating audiovisual collections will impact you and your family.

Fri, 2009-06-26 19:15

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on some difficult budget decisions that the CPL is facing. All public entities dependent on property tax revenue are looking at difficult times into the foreseeable future. More people are now in need of vital services during this economic downturn than we have seen in decades.

One of the reasons that Canton has become a premier living destination is because of the world class services it provides. While some cuts in expenditures will probably be necessary, I think that the key for the library will be revenue generation. It is a tall order in this economy but speaking as a resident, I would like our world class library to have the resources to continue to strive for continuous improvement.

Expenditure cuts could come in by means of expanded use of electronic communications (chaddattilio had a great suggestion above of moving to an electronic newsletter for example). Other ideas such as the use of volunteers for tasks such as shelving may also be effective ways to cut expenditures. While these cuts put a dent in the shortfall, they do not come close to solving the budget issue present in this cycle and in coming years.

There should be a strong emphasis on revenue generation. As a resident, I was disappointed that the Library Board made the decision to roll back the millage rate. While the cut was probably well intentioned, there should have been more foresight on the economic situation that the CPL would be dealing with in the coming years. I would be in full support of a full Headlee Override and a restoration of the millage rate to 2.0 mills. The increase is going to be vital in the near future due to continued projections of decline in property tax revenue. Residents with a home valued at $200,000 (taxable value of $100,000), would pay approximately $51 more annually (the same amount as when the millage was initially passed). People should look at this as an investment in their community. The library provides education, enrichment, and entertainment. People have been forced to tighten their belts in these three areas due to the economic situation, but with this small annual increase and regular use of the library, quality of life can be vastly and inexpensively improved. The Library Board as well as the Administration seem well intentioned, and I am confident that my tax dollars would be put to effective use.

Thank you again for the chance to provide feedback and I hope that the CPL continues to be a world class library going forward.

Wed, 2009-07-01 10:25

Thank you, jb1182, for your support and encouragement. I will pass your comments on to the library board for their consideration. You are correct that the recession will have a long-term impact on the library and our services, and long-term planning is necessary so that we can balance these cuts with the service expectations of our patrons. We want to continue to be an award-winning, world-class library, and I thank you for your feedback.