Library Board of Trustees Meeting Minutes

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49 Henry Street, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866-3271
(518) 584-7860 • Fax: (518) 584-7866 •

Library Board of Trustees
2020 Budget Hearing Presentation
Monday, June 1, 2020

Frank Brady, Kathleen Capelli, Steve Sheinkin, Issac (Ike) Pulver, Tara Chhabra, Jennifer Ferriss, Don Flinton, Jennifer Ogrodowski, Minita Sanghvi, Ric Taras, Carmen Vasquez

Janet Lindner, Eric Blackman

Meeting Called to Order at 5:02 PM

This is a transcript of the spoken words from the presentation.

Good evening everyone. My name is ike Pulver. I'm the director of the Saratoga Springs Public Library, here to give you a presentation about our upcoming budget election, and our budget, for fiscal year 2021. What the content of tonight's presentation will be is essentially the way you used the library in the current fiscal year, with what the budget for next year looks like, and some highlights of what we have planned for next year as best as we can plan in this unprecedented moment in which we live. So with that said we'll launch right into it.

A we normally do we'll start out and talk about circulation, and what people borrowed from the library in 2019. The circulation statistics are based on the calendar year rather than the fiscal year which is why we're talking about 2019. In 2019 books were overwhelmingly the number one thing borrowed from the library. As you can see [from the presentation chart] we have added some electronic resources - eBooks and audiobooks - they're slowly making up a larger percentage of what you're borrowing from us. Some other things - like music and magazines - remain pretty consistent as a percentage of our overall lending each year, but other things - even though they're not statistically significant - things like video games, kits, and museum passes: we lend several hundred of those each year rather than books; and movies, that, we lend several hundred thousand of them each year. One interesting thing that you might notice is that the e-content, as that grows, movies - which used to make up a much larger percentage of our circulation - as people are streaming from home that content is diminishing as a material that's being borrowed from the library. So let's get into some of the particulars; we'll start with print materials: books and magazines. So about 234,000 adult books - the vast majority of that is adult fiction, with an increasing percentage of that being large print as our population ages - but far and away the vast majority of adult books are from the new and popular fiction collection. Children's circulation - about a hundred and seventy-six thousand books - were borrowed and the vast majority of that, from children's books, is children's fiction, which is a combination of things like children's fiction and board books, etc. Anything that's not specifically called out is nonfiction...and about eleven thousand young adult books, and in the neighborhood of five thousand magazines borrowed. As a percentage of books this hasn't changed much over the twelve years that I've been here. The way this falls out that adult fiction is about a third, children's fiction is about a third of the circulation, with large print being a growing portion - and actually children's nonfiction grew a little bit this year - as a percentage of our book circulation.

So the total number of print items that were loaned in 2019 is a quarter of a million: four hundred and twenty five thousand nine hundred ninety-two print items.

As for AV materials: movies for adults is far and away the most popular section of our DVDs to circulate, and children's movies is about a third of that, so for the total for movies is about one hundred and hundred ninety-one thousand. Audiobooks: we loaned about thirty thousand, the vast majority of those being adult audiobooks. Music continues to be popular, so we've loaned about sixteen thousand CDs in 2019, and as I said, a growing population of our percentage of our circulation is in digital materials: eBooks, audiobooks, and - this year very late in the year 2019 - we added streaming movies with our Canopy service, and about altogether about forty-one thousand uses of those materials in 2019. Now since April of this year, since we are no longer in a position in our current situation to continue loaning the physical materials, these numbers will have grown exponentially by the time we talk about them next year.

So as a percentage of our AV circulation this remains pretty constant, about half of it is movies for adults, but as I mentioned a growing percentage of it is adult audiobooks - or the eAudiobooks...and streaming movies - which wasn't statistically significant in the overall circulation figure - makes its debut here in our AV circulation, and that's just for a couple months at the end of 2019.

So altogether two hundred and seventy-eight thousand AV loans, and two thousand eighty-nine.

So the grand total of all items borrowed in 2019 was seven hundred and five thousand items, so that's still a lot of - a lot of materials being borrowed from the Saratoga Springs Public Library. Let's talk a little bit about programs since this is another major budget area. In 2019, thirty-four thousand people attended thirty-seven hundred programs at the library. That is about 10% more than the previous year, so program attendance in better times is a growing growing part of our service.

So, for adult programs, we had twenty-four hundred sessions, and well over ten thousand people attended those programs, and those programs are things like computer classes. It now includes library-sponsored English Language Learning. I would say far-and-away the most popular subject for our adult programs are local history programs and a growing number of craft related programming.

For teens we did three hundred and ninety-six sessions, and had very close to fifteen hundred in attendance, and those are things like a Teen Advisory Group, Magic: The Gathering, a lot of - a lot of Dungeons and Dragons in 2019.

And for children, 855 programs and 22,000 children attending programs. We do Swift Business and Storytimes for Toddlers and Preschoolers, and Summer Reading. Summer Reading in this year is going to look different from any other past year.

So additional services and activities at the library in 2019: Nearly a thousand, nine hundred and eighty-four community groups used our meeting rooms in 2019. Our library staff, including our homebound service person and librarians, made 520 outreach visits to nine thousand, four hundred eighteen people, and loaned to nearly six thousand, nine hundred and seventy-nine items to homebound residents of our service area. Our librarians answered 47,000 reference questions, and eighty-seven thousand people used our computers and wireless. Three hundred and seventy-five thousand people visited the library in 2019.

Some statistics about our holdings and borrowers: so the items in our collection, a number about two hundred and ten thousand - or closer to two hundred eleven thousand - items, and our registered borrowers number forty-six thousand, which is a number that approaches the actual population figure for the Saratoga Springs City School District.

I wanted to give you a little bit of an update about our Strategic Plan, which we're at the very end of a three-year plan and we're at the very beginning of starting our next long-range planning process when this COVID-19 situation occurred. Our current Strategic Plan, which is expiring, combines elements of planning used by the Public Library Association's "Planning for Results Model" - and informed by some model that is used by the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation for gathering input from the community. So to give you a reminder about what the highlights of that plan were: to gather information from the community for writing that plan we assigned every employee of the library the task of interviewing a community member, and from those conversations we put together a kind of a profile of the community, and I'll just share this a little bit. So the people's aspirations - and the conversations - were really about aspirations and the ways that the library might help the community reach those shared aspirations. So what we discovered, and I hope this rings true to you, that people want a diverse, lively community, that preserves the unique character of Saratoga Springs, combining small-town charm with unusually rich, cultural entertainment and natural amenities - but people are concerned that over-development is changing the character and threatening to exclude some people from enjoying a high quality of life by making the area increasingly unaffordable for the middle class. As people talk about these concerns they talked specifically about a lack of affordable housing and public transportation options, preservation of our unique neighborhoods, downtown businesses, cultural institutions, and natural resources; and the lack of civil discourse among our elected leaders. They believe we need to focus on creating opportunities for "everyday people" to have a greater say in decision-making and if our area's many non-partisan, non-governmental and grassroots organizations, such as Skidmore College, Saratoga PLAN, the League of Women Voters, Sustainable Saratoga, the Preservation Foundation, the library, the Interfaith Council, neighborhood associations, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Downtown Business Association played a part in those actions, folks would be more likely to trust the effort and to step forward.

So how does that conversation from the community craft our vision mission and value statements, and here's our vision at the library: we envision a community where individuals are appreciated for their uniqueness; our community is celebrated for its distinctiveness; and all of our residents enjoy an exceptional quality of life because they are well-informed, civically engaged, and intellectually satisfied. We think this is especially important now in these times of civil strife and we really want to be a place where people can come together to have conversations rather than clashes.

So our values: At the library, supporting independent learners is at the heart of all we do. We strive to be of service to one another and to every member of our community. We take pride in being a safe and welcoming place, where all are treated with dignity, respect, fairness, and compassion. We operate transparently, and are excited by new ideas. We honor our traditional role of providing access to the written word while embracing innovation and the delivery of service. And as I said, we think these values are especially important in these days.

So our mission is to be a source of information, inspiration, and entertainment, which enhances the quality of life in our community from up by providing access to resources and experiences to help all of our residents satisfy their curiosity. We know it's a lofty mission, but we try to live it every single day.

So as part of that planning process, we identified - from the input from the community and the community vision statement - some service priorities, some service areas that we would focus the majority of our energy on during the lifetime of the plan.

So to foster early literacy, to provide opportunities for lifelong learning, to provide resources for reading listening and viewing for pleasure, to facilitate access to electronic resources, and to collect and disseminate local history to encourage creative expression to enable civic engagement and to serve as a clearinghouse for community information, and to provide capacity building support for successful enterprises.

So in order to achieve those we set ourselves some goals which we largely met, by the metrics that we assigned to them. So our first goal was to help develop a love of reading and appreciation for the spoken word in very young children; to provide elementary school-age children with the resources they needed to satisfy the curiosity and explore topics of personal interest; to give those same school kids materials and programs that are tuned engage their imaginations and provide pleasurable reading viewing and listening experiences; to give teens materials and programs that respond to their current interests and provide pleasurable reading reviewing and listening experiences; to give adults and teens resources that they need to explore topics of personal interest and continue to learn throughout their lives; and to give convenient and timely access to popular materials for adults; to provide access to information technology and the assistance to use it to our residents; to provide resources our residents and visitors need to understand the history and traditions of Saratoga; to have a central source of information about the wide variety of programs, services, and activities provided by community agencies and organizations - of which there are many - and rich opportunities; to provide resources to nonprofit organizations to develop and maintain strong viable institutions; and to give residents the services they need to express themselves by creating original works of art or content.

And then we set ourselves some sustainability goals: one to minimize our environmental impact, and two to provide a place for the community to productively engage in dialogue and to have the resources to ensure a more resilient future. To achieve these goals, we joined the NYLA (New York Library Association) sustainability initiative, and over the course of the plan - and that initiative is a certification process with, really, three main areas of focus: environmental sustainability, social equity, and economic sustainability. It was a rigorous process. The first part of that was becoming a member of the Green Business Partnership, and going through a pretty rigorous inventory of our use of resources, and we made some great progress in reducing our use of paper, water, electricity, and petroleum products - and as a result of that process, [the library] became one of the first three libraries in the state of New York to become certified sustainable by the New York Library Association. It's an achievement of which we're really proud.

The top picture [in the presentation] is one some of you might recognize: the bike-to-work day challenge, which we've won pretty regularly enough that we were - this month - to be awarded at a ceremony by the green business partnership a transportation award for our biking initiatives. Among those biking initiatives - like I say are regularly participating in bike to work day challenges - we also increased the number of bike racks at the library, and we installed a bicycle repair station in an effort to encourage people - as if you normally, under normal times, you know what the traffic is like in downtown Saratoga Springs, and what the parking situation is in our parking lot.

So to talk a little bit about the budget for 2021: where the funds will come from - these are estimates... So district property tax, this number - five million, two hundred, five thousand - is exactly the same as the prior year, so we're not asking for any increases even though we are anticipating at this point some decreases in other areas of our income. Fines for example, with not circulating things at the moment, and forgiving fines, and eliminating due dates during this unprecedented closure - we're anticipating a significant reduction in that. Donations we anticipate about forty thousand dollars. Grants and aid about forty thousand dollars. Rental income is another area where we anticipate a little bit of a normal times there are three sources of rental income for the library: the library café space which was vacated in January of this year, the Friends of the Saratoga Springs Public Library pay us rent for their used bookshop inside the building, and we get some rent from Sprint for cell phone antenna equipment which is located on the roof of the building. Copiers and printing: about twelve thousand dollars. Retiree health contribution: about fourteen thousand. Interest - it's hard to say as it changes everyday - and "BOH" is our cash-on-hand - so we will dig a little deeper into our reserves this year than we have in past years in order to operate.

So some other highlights of our budget: So as I mentioned, no increase in the tax levy which according to state education law means that we're not actually required to have a budget vote, but we do every year and every time we have the situation in order to give the community a chance to weigh in on our priorities. As I mentioned I just talked about our expiring Strategic Plan, and we had just ramped up a series of focus groups to gather input from the community about our upcoming Strategic Plan when we were forced to put that on pause while the state went on pause. We hope to, within fairly short order, restart that process. We are on a multi-year project to update our mechanical systems; we had hoped in this fiscal year to be able to finish that project but there's one final phase - that again because of the pause we haven't been able to accomplish in this fiscal year - but we hope to wrap that up in the next fiscal year, and then believe it or not, start looking at other parts of our aging infrastructure. Starting in 2009 we started a refurbishment a remodel of this building and remodeled it from top-to-bottom, and now the improvements that we made there are starting to reach the end - many of them - the end of their useful lives - and so we may be looking at some, in the future, some additional capital projects. And we will be expanding our outreach, what you see there, if you can see it on your screen, is a picture of a van, a large van that we purchased, with support from the Alfred Z Solomon Charitable Trust, who gave a gift to our friends to help us purchase this and we will be looking to expand our outreach into the community, which we think, given the current situation where we are limited, or we will be limited in the number of people that will be allowed in the building we anticipate for a number of weeks if not months forthcoming, our ability to reach out to the community - it's going to be even more important than it has been traditionally.

So that's the fiscal year 2021 Saratoga Springs Public Library budget. We anticipate that the strategic planning process in this current situation really may make us reimagine what library services for now and going forward... What we have discovered as we've moved so many of our services online, and are providing them virtually and electronically, the digital divide is becoming even more apparent to us and so whatever way that we are able to help to mitigate that for people in our service area - which is the school district which stretches from Lake Desolation to Saratoga Lake and from Wilton to Milton; and there are some pretty great economic disparities in that area - we will be looking to see what we can do to help bridge that divide as I say.

So that's the budget - thank you very much for listening. Stay well, stay safe. We cannot wait to see you again in-person. We anticipate that we will be able to, or we're working toward - whether we're able to get there or not - we're working toward reinstating circulation of physical library materials on a contactless basis beginning on the 22nd of June. We have to get some safety plans in place and some other plans in order to make that happen, but that is what we're aiming for in coordination with our friends at the Clifton Park Halfmoon library, the Crandall Public Library, and the main library of Schenectady - the large libraries in our region that share a catalogue, a patron database, and a delivery system. So that's one thing that we're working towards at the moment.

So there is a question about whether ballots - so ballots, we understand the library budget vote will be on the same ballot as the school district's budget vote. That's not something that normally happens but in this unprecedented time we've been able to coordinate that with them [the school district] so that the library's budget will appear as a separate item on the school district budget vote and library trustee candidates will appear as separate items. Those are supposed to be automatically mailed with a return envelope and go back to the schools by 5:00 p.m. on the 9th of June. I don't know yet whether they've been mailed. We heard some secondhand news - which I hate to share because it's secondhand news that I haven't been able to confirm yet - that the firm that they have contracted with to do the mailing might be experiencing a shortage of envelopes, so there may be more news to come about that as we go forward.

All right thanks very much everyone have a great night.

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