Can we afford to operate a bigger building?

March 31, 2010

Books on the shelves are so tight, it takes the combined strength of three people to pull one off the shelf .   The electrical wiring is so old that there is a fuse box, and the boiler is as old as your 1903 building.  The library needs a bigger, better building!  You have been saving money, you are getting ready to hire an architect, and you are charging ahead.  This is great, this is fun! But wait!  There is another step you need to do first!  Affording to build is one thing, but is the current operating budget large enough to cover  the additional running costs of a larger building? Let’s find out.

The first step is to pull your final financial statements for the last three to five years.  Look at the total expended in each budget line item.  You may need to pull bills from three to five years from particular vendors (the power company and HVAC maintenance for example).    Take the highest annual figure and increase it by 5% to 8% which will allow for a future rate increase or more extreme temperatures. If you plan to add many more computers or other heavy utility loading equipment (like a larger computer lab), you may want to increase this another couple of percentage points.  A more efficient furnace or lighting system may lower the cost just as much but do not count on it.  Operating costs are often more than anticipated. Total the utility bills for each year and divide it by the square footage of the current building. Then multiply the square foot operating cost by the total square footage you anticipate for the new and improved library you are hoping to build.  This will give you an idea of your usage in the new facility annually.

If you plan to add a service desk or another floor,  you will need to add more staff.  An empty service desk sends the wrong message to customers and non-supervised floors invite trouble.  Flashers, necking duos, and other mischief makers love the quiet places where no one can see them to interrupt their activities.  Figure how many employees it will take to staff a service desk every hour the library is open.  If the space is significantly bigger it will also require more shelvers to cover that extra footage (more steps take more time) and more janitors to vacuum the new carpet and clean the larger, busier restroom or meeting room.  Cost out the addition of staff hours and remember to add the cost of benefits to your figures.

A bigger facility will require more supplies of all kinds from paper and ink supplies for more computers and printers to more filters for more HVAC units to more cleaning supplies for the larger restrooms and other space.  More lights means more light bulbs.

Is there a new or bigger parking lot?  This will require more snow removal costs.  The green areas surrounding the building and parking lot will probably require watering, mowing, pruning, and snow removal for the lots and sidewalks.   Parking lot lights and watering will add to your ongoing  utility costs.

To get a more accurate figure of the impact on your budget, you will need to do this exercise again when you have the final plans for your construction project.  You are doing it now to analyze if you need to do some budget repair work.   If you are not adequately funding your existing facility, you can’t hope to maintain and run a larger facility.

Good luck!


A Quest for Space

March 23, 2010

 You have cataloged a new book and have been spending the last half hour trying to hammer the one inch book into the last remaining half inch of shelf space in the library, but it just won’t work.  Every surface, every corner is filled with books, DVDs, and audio books, and every six months for the last 5 years, you have weeded books, DVDs, and audio books to make room for the new.  You have been talking for the last several years about building an addition but you do not have the funds nor are likely to sell a referendum in the forseeable future.  What can you do? 

Here are some ideas that might buy you some time:

  • Greatly reduce the magazine runs you store for five, ten or fifteen years.  Public libraries are greatly reducing how long they keep magazines and the number of subscriptions they have.  Since most customers prefer to search online and prefer the full text article to the print article, news magazines and newspapers are fading from the scene.  If you want to keep a news magazine, pick one and discontinue the rest.  The boxes of old magazines can be recycled or sold at booksales.  In some cases, you might want to keep one year or two of a title but only do that if they are being checked out.  Evaluate your statistics to find out which magazines earn their keep on the shelf.  If they are not being checked out, cancel them and order something that will.  When I visit libraries, I seldom see more than one news magazine but I do see more hobby, craft, sports,  and special interest titles.
  • Subscribe to full text databases like Wilson Select Plus.  The library systems have negotiated a great price and it is cheaper than subscribing to and storing  all the magazines it includes.
  • Eliminate old formats.  If you still have 16 mm films, vinyl record albums, or statuary, accept the fact that your library is more museum than library. Liberate the shelf space for better use.  When new formats appear, be prepared to eliminate the old within a planned time frame.  For example, if you buy books on CD, don’t let the collection expand beyond the area occupied by the books on cassette.  As you buy more books on CD, eliminate cassette titles.  If you are getting into Playaways, keep them in the same location.  As you add DVDs, remove videos.  
  • Add digital downloadable books to your website. The odds are your customers will love them and you won’t have to have physical space to store them.  They may eventually replace your books on CD and Playaways freeing up even more space.
  • Weed your reference collection heartlessly.  This collection is often considered sacred, but its time is, for the most part, past.  Long runs of yearbooks or almanacs are worthless; all the information is available online.   Directories of businesses, associations, or doctors are out-0f-date almost as soon as they are published.  A good set of World Book Encylopedias is probably still very helpful, but only if it is one or two years old.  Consider subscribing to key reference tools online so the information is current and valid.  They don’t take up space and the information is more accurate.
  • Examine your circulation statistics to determine what is really being used in your library.  Odds are that your nonfiction is not being used the way it has in the past.   Stop buying books on topics that are better researched on the Internet; instead buy more of what customers do want to read about.  If your statistics are not detailed into Dewey breakdowns, get a printout of items that have not circulated in the last two years.  That will give you an idea of what goes out and what does not.
  • Eliminate the vertical file, also known as the pamphlet file, unless it is a local history file.  Probably 90% of the items in a typical pamphlet file include information that is easily found online.  Nothing is more labor intensive than this file.  Writing requests for information, creating file folders, weeding out old pamphlets, creating practical but not cumbersome checkout methods, and refiling returned pamphlets is not practical when there is a cheaper, easier method to get the needed information. 
  • Do rearrange collections and furniture to make the best use of space while keeping obvious traffic patterns open.

If your are out of space, do NOT do the following:

  • Put books and other items in storage for longer than a year.  That might work for universities but public libraries should bite the bullet and weed, not store.  Items in storage are not used and do not earn their keep. You are just prolonging the decision to delete them from your catalog.
  • Keep an item because someone might want it one day, it was a bestseller ten years ago, or it is your most interlibrary loaned book even though no one in your own service area has checked it out in five years.  Tell the next library that requests it for ILL to keep it and save your space for new acquisitions.
  • Remove tables and chairs so new bookstacks can be moved in.  Without seating, the library is just a warehouse.  The more crowded the library is, the less appealing it is to visitors.

Creating Your Board Bylaws

March 17, 2010

Board bylaws create an operational structure for the board.  The bylaws define who does what, how board meetings function, when and what the annual meeting is, the terms of trustees, the agreed upon format for the agenda, etc.  In other words, if there is something you want to know about how the board operates, it should probably be spelled out here.

A basic structure for bylaws includes at least but is not limited to:

  • Officers (How and when they are elected and their responsibilities)
  • Meetings (When they are, where the meeting is held, how they are conducted (Parliamentary procedure, agenda, …))
  • Committees (If you have committees, how they are appointed, their responsibilities, how they report back to the board)
  • Amendments (How this is accomplished)
Reviewing or creating board bylaws is a requirement for the  fiscal year 2011 per capita grant that is due in October 2010. They must include a section on how conflict of interest is to be handled. You should have already passed the Model Ethics Ordinance but you should also mention general conflict of interest procedures in your bylaws.
Other statements to consider including:
  • All administrative records of the library are kept in the library including all minutes, recordings of closed sessions, financial records, bids, requests for bids, and all other official correspondence and documents.
  • Only the board as a whole makes decisions and signs contracts.  No single board member or board committee is authorized to act on the board’s behalf to make final decisions.
Some bylaws include a trustee job description or a breakdown of the responsibilities between the board and director (see the Trustee Facts File, Chapter 1 available to download in the Administrative Ready Reference ).
Before you start reviewing your bylaws, I recommend three things:
  1. Discuss the sample bylaws in the Administrative Ready Reference.  Click on “Policy Model” then “Board of Trustees”. Sample bylaws are the first choice.
  2. Listen to the archive of the online workshop I did called Creating Your Board Bylaws .  It will help you think through some of the issues.
  3. Look at some other online publications on board bylaws to compare notes and pick up good ideas:
You do not have to include information from the Open Meetings Act or other library law but your bylaws should not be in conflict with the law.  If you work through the issues and include critical information in the bylaws, the work will save the board much discussion and confusion in the future.

District Libraries: Filling Board Vacancies

March 9, 2010

A long time trustee resigns from the board.  She was just elected last year in 2009.   What do you do?

The board needs to appoint someone to take her place, but there is more to the process.  Read on.

Two tools that I keep bookmarked in my browser are the Local Election Official’s Handbook for the 2009 Consolidated Elections and the Candidate’s Guide 2009.  Both books are updated annually to include information for that year’s elections.  Library district information is only included in the year that elections are held for trustees.  There is a 2010 edition of the Candidate’s Guide but since trustee elections are not held this year, you need to consult the 2009 information.  The 2010 Local Election Official’s Handbook has not yet been updated for 2010.

The information needed to answer this question is located on page 33 of the Local Election Official’s Handbook for the 2009 Consolidated Elections:

General Provisions for Filling Vacancies in Office
For the office of Library Trustee, the vacancy is filled by appointment by the remaining trustees until the next Consolidated Election. At that time a trustee is elected for the remainder of the term. If the vacancy occurs with less than 28 months remaining in the term and with less than 88 days before the next Consolidated Election, the appointment is for the balance of the term. [75 ILCS 5/4-4, 16/30-25

So, in this case, the board needs to appoint someone to replace the trustee who resigned.  The person who resigned should serve until the new person can take her place, but that is not always possible.  The newly appointed trustee takes office and serves until the next election. He/she can run for the position at that time for the remainder of the term or serve until the newly elected person for that position takes office in May 2011. Whoever is elected would serve the remainder of the term until 2015 if the board’s terms are 6 years or 2013 if the terms are four years.

For your future reference:

State of Illinois Candidate’s Guide 2009 :  In this handy tool, you will find about anything you need to know to run for office including the forms you need for petitions, how to file the nominating papers, qualifications for office, residency requirements, number of signatures needed on a petition, where to file, campaign disclosure information, file by dates, etc.

State of Illinois Local Election Official’s Handbook for the 2009 Consolidated Election :  This handbook focuses more on the election itself including how to register voters, absentee voting, the nomination process, ballot placement, withdrawal from candidacy, vacancies in nomination, vacancies in office, public questions, back door referenda, what happens on election day, etc.

Did you know?

March 2, 2010

Have your ever noticed that the pace of change is increasing ?  It seems like you just bought a new cellphone but there are suddenly six new better cellphones being sold.  You thought you were aware of all the Internet tools you would ever need but just today a co-worker mentioned two you have never seen let alone used.   Is your library ready to serve the future which is actually today for many of your users? 

Watch “Did You Know 4.0” .    Learn and imagine the ramifications for your library.   This is the late 2009 edition of  the original “Shift Happens: Did you know?” video.  Let your mind roam where it will.  This stimulating presentation suddenly puts into perspective information you probably knew but never thought about in this context. 

Here is the earlier 2.0 version which makes some of the same points but with a some-what different  (and longer) approach.  Notice some of the technological changes from 2007 when this was published until the later 2009 4.0 version. 

There is even a wiki that talks about the various versions of the video and includes background information and advice on how to use the video.  Shift Happens

Are you excited, overwhelmed, or just lost in thought?  Imagine.  Just what do these changes  mean for you library?   

Dollars and Sense

March 1, 2010

Let’s talk about a couple of ways to keep track of your library’s money beyond balancing the library checkbook each month. 

FIRST, if you have never done it,  I would recommend a three-year cash flow analysis that you continue to update each year. 

Start with the operating fund balance from the last day of the past fiscal year.  This is just the operating fund, not the special reserve fund or any other fund you have set up.  Then label columns for each of the twelve months of the fiscal year.  Under each of the twelve months, put the actual total expenses for the month and the total actual income. When that is done, go back  and figure the cash balance for each month.  In other words, the beginning balance for the year is the operating fund balance on the last day of the previous fiscal year.  In the first month of the fiscal year deduct what you spent that month and then add in what you took in and that becomes your new balance.  Continue this across the twelve months with the balance at the end of the twelfth month being the new operating fund balance to begin the new year. 

This sounds more confusing than it really is, so let us look at a simplified example.  Imagine your beginning operating fund balance for the year is $100.  If you are a district library, the first day of your fiscal year is July 1.  In the month of July, you spent $90 and took in $5 (fines and fees), so your new balance is $100-$90+$5=$15.  In August, you again spend $90 but take in $10 or $15-$90+$10= –$65.  In September, expenses are $105 and you take in $220, so your new balance is -$65-$105+$220=$50.  Continue this across every month.  I recommend that you actually write these figures in columns so you can better SEE what I am talking about.  

Note in July, you ended with a positive balance of $15, but in August your were in the hole $65.  To get through this month, you probably borrowed money from your special reserve fund to tide you over until your tax draws or enough fines and fees came in.  It is not a good idea to just sit on bills until funds are available as that may very well hurt your library’s credit rating.  Notice in September, more funds came in and you were back into a positive balance.

If you do this analysis for the previous three years, you will notice the natural ebb and flow of money in the budget and be better able to plan for this cash flow each year.  Substantial variances in the routine should make you question what is happening so you can better plan for the next budget year.  Some variances are natural, some are the result of poor planning, and some are out of your control.  One example of a substantial change would be tax draws arriving a month or months late, throwing the budget out of whack quickly.    In this three-year analysis, you can see what the expenses generally are each month, so if this happens in the future, you can anticipate and adjust your expenses accordingly.  It helps you plan for a line of credit from your bank or look  at your reserve fund to make sure you have enough to carry you through until those tax draws appear. 

A SECOND tool to track the library’s finances is a monthly financial statement that reflects your expenses and income.  Under expenses, the first column would be your appropriated budget broken down by budget line name (director’s salary, staff salary, benefits, supplies, materials budget, etc.) with the second column being the appropriated dollar amount.  The third column would be the amount spent in each line for the current month, the fourth column would be the amount spent in that line to date this fiscal year. The fifth column would be the amount left in that budget line.  The final column could be either the percentage spent or percentage unspent, whichever you prefer, but make sure you are consistent and everyone knows what the percentage means.  Personally, I like it to show the percentage spent.  If in the sixth month, the budget shows expenditures well over 50%,  you want to understand why.  A major planned furniture purchase or significant unplanned staff overtime could be why the budget is over expected limits, but the board and director should understand and discuss the reason before it is too late to adjust the budget.

Under income, list all the sources of income that you used to figure the budget and track these each month.  The first column is the name of the expected income line (tax draws, fines and fees, grants, gifts/memorials), the second the amount expected this year, the third the amount that actually came in this month, the fourth the total amount that has come in so far this fiscal year, the fifth column would be the amount that you still expect to come in, and the final column would be either the percentage that has arrived so far or the percentage still left to come.  As you track the income, you can adjust your spending accordingly.  If the money is not coming in as expected, change your plans for expenses immediately. 

This monthly expense and income report will help the board and director track their budget.  Does anyone have any other tools they recommend?

Welcoming the New Director

February 23, 2010

The interviews are over, the director is hired, a start date has been set, and your job is done.  Or is it?

If you were starting a new position as CEO what would you want to know? When I was in that situation, this is what I experienced.

My first directorship was about 300 miles away in another state.  I needed to know about legal and financial realities of managing a public library in that state.  The assistant director sent me the financial manual from the state which included most of the legal information I needed as well.  She also, bless her heart, sent me the board minutes for the last year and a copy of the library budget.  Since it had been a tumultuous year, that helped me understand the dynamics of the current reality in that library.  She also sent me the building program for the renovation and remodeling project that was starting the same time I did.  Her thoughtfulness made a huge difference in my ability to address the most critical issues first.

A story and photo of me ran before I even arrived in state.  Warn the new director that this is coming.  They should be expecting it, but it never hurts to say something ahead of time.

The Friends of the Library held a small reception that introduced me to staff and the Friends’ board as well as a few regular library users.  It was friendly, warm, and welcoming. The staff introduced me to customers as the opportunity arose.

When I started my second directorship, I heard from the second director that the staff felt like the previous director did not even know their names.  I asked the assistant director to help me with that by sending me photos of the staff with their names and departments.  There were about 50 people, but I had the information absorbed before my first day.  I greeted each person by name the first day.  I also requested minutes, the budget, an organizational chart, the policy manual, and information on the Friends, Literacy, and Endowment boards since they all  met regularly. It was a more complex organization.

I was invited to the retirement dinner for the long term director.  The board wanted to celebrate both directors in one event.  I do not recommend that.  The big dinner should recognize the retirement; the director deserves to have a wonderful send-off without it including the person taking his place.  It is a thank you for a job well done.   A reception for the new director would have introduced the new director adequately.

The board planned a workshop on transition and change.  They had invited a respected speaker, but they forgot to clue me in.  It probably would have helped my transition if I had been included in the planning or at least allowed to talk to the speaker before the workshop.  It was a good idea but with the new director included in the process, it could have worked better.

Currently I am a consultant and when I changed to this job, what helped me the most was information on available houses to rent.  The community where I planned to move did not advertise anything liveable in the newspaper and I had a very difficult time finding what I wanted.   Without  help from my new workplace during my second trip to the state,  I would not have thought to work with a realtor to find a rental.  In that community, that was the only way to locate “good” rentals.

There are various methods to help the new director transition to your community and library.  When the board interviews the candidates, they can start this process by sending all candidates copies of the budget and long range plan for the library.  A tour of the service area also helps.

To summarize, once the new director is hired:

1. Offer to send copies of the budget, library law, long range plan, etc.  Not all new directors want this information, but many do.

2.  Tell the new director about any big or new projects that will start before or immediately after their arrival. Be prepared to provide them more information if requested.

3.  Connect them to a Realtor, sign them up for a month’s subscription to the local newspaper, or send them links to community information that you think they need to know or would enjoy.

4.  Plan a reception to introduce the new director to staff, the board, and the public.  Make a point of introducing them to major donors if they attend.

5.  In the first few months, invite them to your service organizations and introduce them to people they need to know.  Stay away from political or religious groups; leave those for them to find on their own.  Introduce them to the mayor and the head of the Chamber of Commerce.

When you help the director orient to the community, you are helping her also orient to the library and its users.

Connecting with the community, the users, the staff, and the board are an important beginning.

Need a New Leader?

February 11, 2010

Your library director has just resigned, retired, or left for whatever reason.  Feeling bereft, lost, confused, or overwhelmed?  Don’t despair!  There is help for you and your library board!

If you glance over to your right, you will see a list of the pages on this blog site.  Once you have read this entry, click on “Tools to Download & Use” and then click on “How to Hire a Library Director”.  The pamphlet guides you through the process.

Choosing the library director is one of the most important responsibilities the board has.  This person will inspire, lead, transform, and manage the library’s future.  To that end, the board must first re-evaluate the job description in light of the library’s long-range plan and what the library needs to accomplish its goals.  The new job description might require  a different skill set than the previous job description; that is okay.  Times change and the library needs to change with them.

Other discussions that need to happen:

  1. Are the current salary and benefits adequate to attract a quality candidate?
  2. A hiring committee can research the process, conduct the work,  and bring recommendations to the board. Who should serve on this committee?
  3. Where, when, and how will the library advertise?  Write an exciting advertisement  that sells your library but clearly states what qualities are needed and how one applies for the position.  Allow enough time for applicants to collect information so they can apply.  Advertise in places where they will see the advertisement.
  4. How do you design the interview process?  It is important to “sell” the community and the library as a great place to live and work.  Applicants evaluate the library and board as you evaluate them.  NOTE:  There are legal limitations on questions; design your questions accordingly.
  5. How does the board talk about existing problems?  Honesty is important; do not hide lawsuits, funding shortfalls, or other serious issues.  The candidate, if hired, will quickly distrust a board that has hidden critical information.  Some candidates like challenges and you will learn more about their problem solving skills by discussing problem issues.
  6. How soon do you need the new director to start?  Allow time to adequately plan the process, advertise, interview, and negotiate the hiring.  Finally allow time for the chosen candidate to give notice to their current employer.

Our job here at the Alliance Library System is to advise, teach, or help  board, directors, and staff of member libraries do the things they need to do to run their library and make it better.  Call us anytime at (309) 694-9200 if you have questions, concerns, or ideas.  My extension is 2110.  If I cannot answer your question, I will connect you with someone who can.

Desktop Workshops at Your Fingertips!

January 20, 2010

You don’t have to drive anywhere! You don’t have to put on make-up, dress up, or play nice with anyone.  You can even sit at your computer in your pajamas, sign in to an online “room”, and participate in a workshop on a topic that interests you.

The Alliance Library System works to save you time, driving, and money by offering online workshops for trustees, directors, and often everyone on your staff.

All you need to do is sign up for a Library Learning (L2) account being sure to include the name of your library and your system (Alliance Library System).  You will need an email account to do this.


Once you have done this, sign up for some of the workshops designed just for you.  In February and March, we have the following workshops designed for trustees and directors scheduled:

10 a.m., February 2  Completing Paperwork for New Employees with Morgan Cadwalader.  Ms. Cadwalader, ALS Human Resources person (and an attorney), has and will offer several workshops online on various human resources related topics.  Attend this program in the ALS OPAL Room.

10 a.m., February 18  Creating Your Board Bylaws with Rose Chenoweth. Ms. Chenoweth is the library development consultant who works with ALS public library trustees.  The Illinois Public Library Per Capita Grant application due in October, 2010 requires that each public library has an up-to-date board bylaws.  Learn about what to include and how to set up the structure for your bylaws.  Again, attend this program in the ALS OPAL Room.

10:00 a.m. March 2  Conducting On-the-Job Training and Orientation with Morgan Cadwalader. Also in the ALS OPAL Room.

Phil Lenzini Workshops: Through cooperation with the Prairie Area Library System, ALS is also offering you the opportunity to attend two upcoming workshops with library attorney Phil Lenzini.  Again, you will need to sign up for these online workshop on L2.  Signing up for these workshops is a little different since they are offered through PALS.  It will look like you are being charged $10 to attend, but if your L2 account shows that your account is connected to your library AND Alliance Library System, the fee will be waived.

9:30 a.m. February 10  Privacy and Confidentiality for Libraries with Attorney Phil Lenzini. This online workshop will be held in the PALS OPAL Room.

9:30 a.m. March 9.  District Library Legal Seminar with Attorney Phil Lenzini

To participate in any online program, you will need headphones with a built-in  microphone and will need to download an applet/software.  This takes very little time and opens your opportunities for online educational experiences. Sign in to all workshops about 15 minutes early to make sure your connection and microphone works.

Hope to see you in OPAL!

P.S.  Please share this blog with the other trustees on your board so they can receive these postings when they come out.

FOIA Electronic Training Now OPEN

January 15, 2010

As promised, the Illinois Attorney General’s “Ensuring Open and Honest Government” webpage today (January 15) opened the link to the online training for the new Freedom of Information Act officer your public body has appointed. Click “Continue to Training” .  You will need to register as the FOIA/OMA Officer for a Public Body before proceeding with the training.

I recommend that members of the board and anyone on the staff who serves as a backup for the official officer takes the “Public Training”.  This is the first link shown on the electronic training page. Everyone on the board and in library administration needs to understand the requirements of the law and the related penalties if the law is not followed.

The official FOIA officer must complete this training by June 30, 2010 and then again annually.