By Mallory Clarkson/London Community News/Twitter: @MalloryClarkson
A reduction in hours and the elimination of Sunday service will happen if the London Public Library (LPL) has to stick to a zero per cent operating budget target, warns its board of directors.
But, this shouldn’t come as a huge surprise for council, said Josh Morgan, chair of the LPL board.
“In our last letter to them (city council) on operating budgets, it was Feb. 6, 2012, we outlined the risk of these specific items being in the 2013 budget should we hit zero again,” Morgan said.
This information was presented to the board Thursday evening (Aug. 9), only a couple of weeks after council approved a tax freeze for 2013. But, while accepting that the cuts — which also include a reduction of the collections budget and services — will be implemented if the city maintains its zero per cent increase, Morgan stressed the board doesn’t think it’s in the best interests of high-quality library service.
“That’s why the board also took a very important step to say zero means these cuts, but we don’t support these cuts, so we are asking specifically that council add these items in if they hit zero,” Morgan said. He clarified that the board is asking council to throw any extra money towards the LPL so services can be maintained.
In order to maintain existing services, the library is looking for a $410,000 increase to its budget.
But, as for how the cuts will affect the 3.2 million patrons (as per the LPL’s 2011 statistics) who visit library branches, Morgan said the public will feel a clear, noticeable impact.
“They’ll (the public) obviously get high quality interactions, but the points of contact are likely to be fewer, the hours to access librarians are likely to be fewer,” he said.
Susanna Hubbard Krimmer, CEO of the LPL, said the board has really tried to grapple with the challenge the library is facing.
She said despite the 10.5 per cent increase in usage over the last five years, the library has done things like cost avoidance to become more efficient.
“We’ve done all sorts of things to keep peace with the increased use and the cost of living,” she said. “The board has been very fiscally responsible and we’re at the crossroads where there are no choices left but to take actions that will result in service cuts.”
Morgan added that while current figures aren’t available, library staff say usage is still increasing. He added considering the current economic challenge, the zero per cent target comes at the worst possible time.
“(London residents) are in need of our library service right now and those who are struggling to make ends meet are using our library service in increasing numbers,” he said. “That’s why the board feels it’s exceptionally important to make it clear to council that these are real implications to zero at the LPL and we’re asking them not to make us make these choices.”