"Cutting libraries in a recession is like cutting hospitals in a plague."
Effective October 1, 2010 (the beginning of our fiscal year) the cuts imposed by the City go into effect. If you want to complain, contact the Mayor or your alderman. Click here for their names and contact information.
- Less Staff. One staff member was let go. We were short staffed to begin with, and this means you may have to wait longer to get help. Please be patient with us.
- Reduced Hours. Rather than closing on Saturday, we're opening later on Saturday and closing earlier on three days. New hours are listed here.
- Increased fees. Overdue fines for books was raised from 10¢ to 15¢ a day. Copying and printing went from 15¢ to 25¢ a page.
- Magazines Cancelled. About half our magazines will not be renewed, including American History, Antiques & Collecting, Create & Decorate, Education Digest, Essence, Familyfun, Fitness, Forbes, Jet, Kiplinger, Martha Stewart Living, Natural History, New Yorker, O: Oprah, Oxford American, People, Popular Mechanics, Prevention, Psychology Today, Real Simple, Road and Track, Saturday Evening Post, Southern Lady, Victoria, Woman's Day, Workbench/My Home My Style. If you want to help, a very nice affordable gesture would be to donate a year's subscription to one of these magazines. Email if you're interested.
- No Online Databases. Ancestry Library Edition and World Book will not be renewed. The databases provided by the State through MAGNOLIA will still be available. Heritage Quest is provided by the Friends of the Library and will still be available.
- Newspapers Cancelled. New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal will not be renewed. Fortunately, we received a grant (for one year only) to receive these online.
- No New Equipment. Our public computers are eight years old and heavily used. If any need to be replaced, there will simply be one less computer.
- No New DVDs. We were just beginning to transition from videos to DVDs. Fortunately, we just received a $3000 grant to buy new ones.
- Charge for Using Meeting Rooms. Use of our meeting rooms used to be free. Now there is a charge of $15 for half day and $25 for all day.
“Cutting Libraries in a recession is like cutting hospitals in a plague.” Well, the budget approved by our City leaders did just that. In 2005, the City placed the Library on a dedicated millage of 2.575 mills. When property reassessments in 2009 would have resulted in the Library – finally – after 11 years – receiving an increase in funding, the City leaders decided they Library should not have any increase in funding. Apparently, they believe the Library can operate in 2011 (and in 2010, as well – but I will address that later) with the same amount of funding as it did in 1998. THIRTEEN YEARS AGO! In 1998, we did not have any computers and the minimum wage was $5.15!
Unfortunately, we cannot operate the Library on the same level of funding as we did in 1998. This knowledge, and the realization that our City leaders think so little of the importance of your public library, have forced us to make some significant changes in the services we offer.
To begin with, we have had to let one library employee go. Being short staffed to begin with, this means you may have to wait in line a little longer to be assisted. Overdue fines for books (which have not been raised in about 15 years) will increase from 10¢ to 15¢ a day. Charges for printing and copying with increase from 15¢ to 25¢ per page. The charge for color printing will remain the same.
The biggest effect is a reduction in hours. Rather than eliminate the four hours we are open on Saturday, we chose to close one hour earlier on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. We will still be open on Thursday until 6. On Saturday, we will open an hour later, at 10:00 am. Therefore, beginning October 1, our hours are 9-5 Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; 9-6 Thursday and 10-1 Saturday.
So, we are cancelling about half of the magazine subscriptions (that were just renewed this summer!). Among the titles cancelled are: American History, Antiques & Collecting, Create & Decorate, Education Digest, Essence, Familyfun, Fitness, Forbes, Jet, Kiplinger, Martha Stewart Living, Natural History, New Yorker, O: Oprah, Oxford American, People, Popular Mechanics, Prevention, Psychology Today, Real Simple, Road and Track, Saturday Evening Post, Southern Lady, Victoria, Woman's Day, Workbench / My Home My Style. Additionally we will NOT renew in 2011 two very important and heavily used online databases, World Book and Ancestry Library Edition. World Book provided online access to a vast array of research titles for school children of all ages. Ancestry Library Edition is a genealogy database for use by researchers using the Library’s computers.
We have cancelled three newspapers, each very heavily read: USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and New York Times. Fortunately, we had written a grant to provide access to these newspapers online, but the grant is for one year only, so if funding is not restored, these will disappear completely next year.
Being fiscally responsible has apparently resulted in our budget cut. Not one time has the Library overspent its budget and had to go to the City to ask for more money. How many other City departments make that claim?
This is truly a sad day for us all. Our eight-year old computers are used so heavily that I wonder what we will do when they finally give out. Replacement of dead computers is simply not an option with this budget. Our City leaders are not Library users and obviously do not feel adequately funding the Library is important. That message is up to us to convey to them.
In 2005 by a vote of the Board of Aldermen, the Library was put on millage of 2.575. This meant that the Library did not have to be funded out of the General Fund. Instead it would get a percentage of tax revenues. The amount that a mill is worth varies year to year based on revenues. Putting the Library on millage basically meant a tax increase for residents of the City, so a public hearing was held prior to this action, and there was no opposition. Voters generally do not mind paying taxes for their Library - since they can see the results.
Since 2005, the Library has determined its annual budget based on the value of a mill. Taxpayers can depend on their Library being fiscally responsible and well managed. It does not go over budget. It does not have to borrow money to meet expenses. It puts away money to take care of anticipated and emergency expenses. It always has a good audit.
The fiscal year for the City and the Library begins October 1, and by law the City budget must be adopted by September 15 after a public hearing. The Library was informed its budget would not be cut - that its millage would remain the same. However, a handout prepared by the City Clerk and distributed at the public hearing showed a reduced millage amount. The Mayor and Aldermen did not seem to know that it was reduced. To make matters even worse, the City Clerk said the millage had been changed last year - without informing the Library!
Changes in millage must be approved by the Board. The City Clerk cannot just change millage on his own - it is not like a General Fund appropriation. Taxpayers who approved of the increase should have had an opportunity to oppose the reduction, but this did not happen.
The Library receives a significant amount of funding from the State. However, this funding requires that the City maintain its level of funding. This reduction could cause the Library to lose some or all of its State funding.
Basically, this is a real financial disaster for the Library. The only hope now is for lots of people to attend the meeting of the City Council on Tuesday, September 14 and show them that residents are opposed to their actions. This is the last chance for the City to change its mind. Please attend and show your support for your Library.
Please attend City Council Meeting Tuesday, September 14 at 11 am!
Thank you to all our supporters who attended the hearing, although it went for naught.
On Tuesday, October 5, the Natchez Democrat posted an online poll asking their readers "Should the City of Natchez give the Armstrong Library more funding?" The answer was overwhelmingly YES.