Weber County Library braces for a tight budget

Sep 23 2010 - 11:33pm

OGDEN -- Weber County Library is looking at another tough budget year as it tries to balance the needs of collection of materials with future building needs.

The priority for Weber County is collection, Director Lynnda Wangsgard told the library board at a recent meeting.

However, library infrastructure is a big concern as there are many maintenance and building improvements that have to be addressed in the next decade, she said.

While nobody likes to compromise, Associate Library Director Karen Burton said, collection is important enough that they would rather leave an open position unfilled than cut the collection budget.

"If there are no books here, there's no reason (to have staff)," she said.

Utah libraries spend an average of 14 percent of their budget on collection materials, she said. Davis County spends 16.6 percent, while Weber County spends 12.5 percent, Burton said.

Library books and materials make up about $1 million of a proposed $8 million budget for 2011. That is the largest part of the library's budget after employee salaries and benefits.

"It is a big number, but when you spread it over the buildings and the variety of materials -- adult, picture books, large print, DVDs, CDs, different languages -- it doesn't go quite as far as we hope it would," Wangsgard said.

She said two of the reasons the book and materials budget is below the state average are a commitment to community programs and a larger public computer infrastructure.

Wangsgard said she and Kim Hale, library comptroller, also put together a 12-year schedule of anticipated infrastructure needs. The list includes items such as carpet replacement, parking improvements, self check-out radio tag systems and new paint.

Not only is the main library getting old and needing improvements to meet code, but the Southwest Branch in Roy has become inadequate for the needs of the community, Wangsgard said.

Hale said listing those needs helps the library, county and library board better plan for them and keep them in mind during budget meetings.

To create the library budget, Hale said, they first request a list of wants and needs from library staff. Those lists filter up to him and Wangsgard, who prioritize them and trim the budget to fit the county guidelines.

He said they created four budgets: the one for the board, which has a small budget increase; a no-growth budget for the county auditor; a budget with a 1 percent reduction from the previous year; and one with a 3 percent reduction.

The library board is voting on the 2011 budget today. The budget then goes to the county for approval.

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