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County libraries look to do more with less as resources are cut and need increases
library pic
Heidi Burnell, center, tutors Stephanie Zamora and Joel Enriquez at the Turlock Public Library. Burnell says the library is a convenient place to tutor with a lot of helpful information. - photo by Journal file photo
Library facts

·       64% of residents have library cards

·       2.3 million items were checked out over the last year

·       The library’s Home Delivery Service delivered items to 215 homebound residents over the year.

·       36,028 people attended StoryTimes events

·       The public computers were used 239,798 times

·       Reference librarians answered 142,311 questions.



The library’s revenue breakdown:

·       4% from book sales, fines/fees, and donations

·       9% from the county general fund

·       2% from the state

·       85% from sales tax revenue



·       23% operating expenses

·       6% books, materials, and databases

·       72% salaries and benefits

In these times of economic hardship, the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors has had to pull the budget belt of various departments tighter and tighter and the county’s library system has felt the heavy burden of serving a greater number of people while the financial support trickling in gets thinner.

The county’s network of 13 libraries is going into the new year with a budget that is 15 percent less than the previous year. Library officials have already taken several steps, including layoffs, to trim expenses. In April, the Board of Supervisors approved a cost-cutting measure that shuttered the doors on all of the 13 library branches on Fridays and laid off 25 employees, nearly 16 percent of the system’s staff.

“We continue to try and give the best customer service we can, even with the lessening of our available resources,” said library spokesperson Susan Lilly.

As a way to improve their customer service in the wake of the layoffs, the library system has added self-checkout machines at five branches. Additionally, in a cost-cutting move, the library has ceased sending out overdue notices by mail and instead uses an automated phone system.

The 2010-2011 library budget totals $8,387, 667. Monies from the county general fund, the state and local revenue, including fines, used book sales and donations, make up $1,187,667. An additional $1,000,000 will be used from the library’s reserves.

 The library is funded primarily by a 1/8-cent dedicated sales tax, expected to decrease by 15 percent to just $6,200,000, in the 2010-2011 budget year. The average Stanislaus County household contributes $1.66 per month or just under $20 a year to the library through taxable purchases, according to the library’s annual report for 2009-10.

The 1/8-cent sales tax has been in place since 1995 when it was approved by county voters. The special tax was extended by voter approval in 1999 and 2004. The tax is in effect until June 30, 2013.

“Without the dedicated library tax we would have minimal or no library service in this county,” County Librarian Vanessa Czopek said in a released statement.

 The library has already taken steps to address the decrease in sales tax revenue by leaving unfilled positions vacant, delaying facilities maintenance unless safety related, reducing the use of part-time hours, eliminating travel and training, and reducing supplies. The book and materials budget will be further reduced to $200,000, a 61 percent reduction over the current year. The library’s information technology budget will be reduced to $50,000, from $139,000 in the current year.

“These cuts are painful but necessary in order to be good stewards of the funds entrusted to us by the voters of this county,” said Czopek. “We are working diligently to provide the best service possible with the resources we have available.”

Officials are also hoping the library system will benefit from increased fund-raising efforts.

“The Library Foundation has committed to tripling its contribution to the library in the 2010-2011 budget year,” said Denise Nordell, Stanislaus County Library Foundation board chair. “The majority of our support for next year, about $30,000, will be used to fully fund the Summer Reading Program. We think it’s incredibly important to encourage reading for people of all ages – particularly young readers, who can expand their horizons through books and other library materials.”

The library continues to seek additional funding sources through grants, partnerships and donations to the Library Foundation.

For all the budgetary cuts, the library continues to be a valuable service for Stanislaus County residents. According to the library’s annual report, residents have access to 792,131 books, magazines, newspapers, audio books, videos, and DVDs, valued at $19.3 million. Sixty-four percent of residents have library cards and over the last fiscal year they checked out 2.3 million items.

During that time frame reference librarians answered 142,311 questions and customers used the public computers 239,798 times. The ReadingWorks Adult Literacy program served 1,348 adults.

The library’s programs geared towards the youngest readers and teens also saw increased usage over the year. The library system hosted 1,043 StoryTimes that drew in 36,028 people. Last summer, 9,062 children and 1,187 teens participated in the Summer Reading Program.

Since the publication of their annual report, the library system has launched JobNow, a service that helps with job coaching and searches, as well as educational services.

“It’s a robust program that is rapidly becoming a popular service with library users,” Lilly said.

In 2011, the library will launch Stanislaus Reads. Similar to One City, One Book, the program will focus on one book to lead discussions and forums for the year. The work selected is “Wisdom of the Last Farmer,” by David Mas Masumoto. The library will host several events tied to the book, culminating with an event tied to the Stanislaus County Fair, Lilly said. For middle and high school readers, the library has selected “Esperanza Rising” by Pam Munoz Ryan, and for young readers the selected work is “Apples to Oregon” by Deborah Hopkinson and Nancy Carpenter.

To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.