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
2021 Budget Hearing Presentation
Monday, June 14, 2021

Frank Brady, Kathleen Capelli, Heather Crocker, Janet Lindner, Minita Sanghvi, Issac (Ike) Pulver, Eric Blackman, Tara Chhabra, Laura Clark, Jennifer Ferris, Don Flinton, Jennifer Ogrodowski, Ric Taras, Sue Pettit, Denise Feltes

Kristen Dart, Terence Diggory

Meeting Called to Order at 7:05 PM

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

Alright. Good evening everyone, my name is Issac Pulver. I'm the director of the Saratoga Springs Public Library.

Welcome to our 2021 Library Budget Hearing. We'll start soon with a slideshow, but before we get into that I thought that I would just introduce the people who are here on the screen. This is a little bit of an unusual format for us. We did this at a similar time last year and who would have thought a year ago that we would be doing this again? Generally we are gathered in our H. Dutcher Community room for this presentation. I'm just going to go across what I see on my screen, which may be different from your screen, so when I say the names of the folks here, if you wouldn't mind just waving so people can see who you are. So at the top of my screen I see Eric Blackman, who's our Library District Treasurer. Then I see myself. Then I see Laura Clark, who's a librarian too in our Youth Services department. Then Ric Taras who is our Building Operations Supervisor. Then next row down I see Denise Feltes who is our incoming Senior Account Clerk, and Jennifer Ferris who is our [department] head of Circulation and Technical Services, and Katie Capelli who's Vice President of the Board of Trustees, and Janet Lindner who is the Secretary of the Board of Trustees. Then the next row down I see Frank Brady who is the President of the Library Board of Trustees, then next to him I see Tara Chhabra who is our Human Resources Manager. Next to her: Jennifer Ogrodowski who is our [department] head of Adult Services; then next to her I see Carol Daggs who is a candidate for Trustee in our upcoming election. The next row down I see Heather Crocker who is a Trustee of the Library, and next to her I see Sue Pettit who is our current Library District Clerk, and then there's the blank screen - and behind that screen is the man pushing the buttons and making this all happen - his name is Don Flinton, he is our Computer Services Manager.

Alright, Welcome everybody I'm going to fire up a slideshow here. What I thought we would do today, which is what we do each year in this venue, is give a little bit of an overview of what happened at the library in the last year. What we think the budget implications will be as we go forward, and what we are anticipating will happen next year - and maybe a little bit into the future. So as we always do, we talk about circulation, which is one of the primary measures of our success in serving the community, and as you can imagine in 2020 - and these are all calendar year 2020 figures that we're sharing - we saw some decreases because of the health emergency that we are all still experiencing, but we went through the - really the depths of that in calendar year 2020 - but as I was putting this presentation together, I was surprised at really even despite how disruptive this emergency was, the library was still incredibly busy in 2020. I would like to share a little bit about the formats that people are borrowing.

We have always been a rarity among libraries in that we are still - and have been for a few decades now - a library that even with all of the other formats that we circulate, we still circulate primarily books, even though we circulate movies and music there were - it was common for libraries across the country really, when libraries started circulating movies, for that to overtake the circulation of books. That has never been the case [for us], we're still a reading community. So, nearly 60 percent of our circulation in 2020 was books. Things like movies and music have declined a little bit as streaming services have come online but one thing that you'll notice when we get a little bit farther in is that things like e-books and e-audio books are really skyrocketing and did in the course of 2020. An interesting thing that you'll see here is that e-audiobooks, for example, have outpaced the circulation of physical audio books, so things like audio books on cd are the other and play-aways are the formats that we circulate.

A little bit of a breakdown about the print materials and what the makeup of those items is: It's still primarily - maybe not primarily but definitely majority - adult books and adult fiction is far and away the most popular thing that we circulate at the library. About 137,000 adult books, 90,000 books for children about 8,000 books for teens and 3,000 magazines - this is just the percentage breakdown. You'll see - and this is typical - what is a little bit unusual about 2020 in terms of circulation of print materials is that it is typical for adult book circulation and children's books circulation to be about equal - in 2020 we circulated a little bit fewer juvenile books than adult books... Even with our disruption, over a quarter million books were borrowed from the Saratoga Springs Public Library in 2020. This is a big busy screen but it shows some other formats that we circulate: movies, audiobooks, music, and then some digital materials that we circulate. So you know, like I said, even though we've had this disruption in our services over the last year or so, [there were] still nearly 72,000 movies - these are physical movies - were checked out. Nearly as many downloadable materials were checked out; that's ebooks e-audios and streaming movies, and 13,000 audio books - those are physical audio books, and about 7,000 musical CDs. This is how they break down as a percentage of circulation, and as I mentioned you'll see that e-books and e-audiobooks - so the digital download items - as a percentage of our circulation of non-print materials really, as you can imagine in the circumstance that we were in last year, really skyrocketed and overtook the circulation of some of the other physical formats.

Over 150,000 A/V loans were made. I'll probably repeat this multiple times as I go on, really despite the disruption the demand for materials remained high; definitely lower than it has been traditionally and in past years but still a lot of stuff went in and out of our doors over the last over the year. So nearly 400,000 items were borrowed even despite the circumstances that we were in. The other area that we talked about programs - and this is an area that even more than circulation of materials - was disrupted primarily because we did not have access to our program spaces, or the ability to do - beyond the month of March, 2020 - the ability to do programs in person for any part of the year in 2020. So this is where there was a real impact and a big change in the way that we presented content to program-goers. However, as I mentioned it's still a busy place, so this is a combination of statistics of things that happened in person before our closure and then things that happened - you know we did over 200 hours of Zoom-related programming in 2020. So all together 9,000 people attended nearly 1,800 programs at the library; either in the library or online through our Facebook page, through YouTube, through this very format through Zoom... So, we were still busy even though we couldn't see you face-to-face, busy presenting content to our community, So for adult programs there were over 1,100 sessions and about 3,000 people attended those. For teen programs 191 sessions with 606 [attendees]. Now what these numbers don't capture, especially for teens and for children - 441 sessions with 1,800 attendees is that many of the programs for teens and children were not presented synchronously. That means they were not presented live, but like we did with adults we were able to do a lot of zoom sign-up programs. With children and teen program a lot of them were recorded and then presented over Facebook and YouTube, and then other social media platforms. So these numbers of attendance are actually people who came to the program, so they're counting face-to-face rather than subsequent views for programs, so they very likely don't capture the real impact of the programming that we did over the course of 2020.

Some other additional services - and you know a lot of this happened before we were forced to close in march of 2020 - 220 groups, or two there were 220 bookings of our meeting rooms and the meeting rooms have been closed since March 13, 2020. So those 220 bookings of the meeting rooms were really within the first two and a half months of the year. Of outreach visits our staff made 495 visits to homebound people, to people in classrooms, and to people in congregate living settings - and again much of that happened before we were closed - some happened later in the year. What we found is that while we wanted to ramp up some of our visits, our outreach visits, at certain points of the year we were not able to because we could really only go where we were invited to, or allowed to, and it was the case especially with senior housing, for example, and as was the case with schools, that most places during the course of 2020 were as closed down as we were, and as close to having outsiders come in for any reason other than very essential service. So in the course of those nearly 500 visits, 2,200 people attended those visits. We made about 1,800 loans to homebound. We have an individual - her name is Jeannine Jeter - who makes visits to people who are homebound within our service area. [She] brings that - which is the Saratoga Springs City School District, which stretches from Lake Desolation to Saratoga Lake, and from Milton to Wilton, so it's 110 square miles here, centered on the City of Saratoga Springs - and Jeannine visits people who are not able to come to the library yet who are able to receive visitors. What she was able to do when she was not able to visit people is to make wellness calls to people that she might visit regularly, because not only is she the person who brings them library materials often, she is a social outlet to people who are homebound as well. Our staff answered - and this is, we know this to be an under count but - 15,000 reference questions, and interestingly even though we were closed for much of this time in 2020, we still had 22,000 - nearly 23,000 people - use our wireless and computers inside the library, and we had over 100,000 people visit the library during the times that we were able to be open in 2020. So that's a significant decrease from previous years which is to be expected, but it is still about nearly 500 people a day for the days that we were open in 2020 that we had people in the building.

A few other statistics that you might find interesting is that we have about 200,000 items in our collection, and as of today, we have 42,505 registered borrowers, and that's in a service area of about 50,000 people so, you know, we have better market penetration - you know it's enviable to anybody who is trying to reach a market. As it turns out this is a decrease for us over years past, and that is due to a number of reasons. One [reason] is that our library system has done a purge of our database for inactive borrowers, and as you can imagine over the last year and a half - nearly two years - many of our borrowers have become inactive or expired which would account for...and have not yet found their way back to us as we move our way through our reopening stages. So even though that's a high number, that's about 86 percent of the population. We do anticipate that number will increase in the coming year.

To tell you a little bit about strategic planning: Just in the course of 2020 - fiscal year 2021 that is about to end - our previous strategic plan has expired. So that was a multi-year plan that really had a focus on sustainability - in fact we called it "Toward a Sustainable Future" - and we went through a very lengthy process, and some of the highlights - really the accomplishments - that were many, but two in particular of the outcomes of that process were that we became a certified green business by the Green Business Partnership, and we were one of the two first libraries in the state of New York to be Certified Sustainable by the New York Library Association, and in order to achieve that certification really, it was - as I mentioned - a very lengthy and in-depth process, with an audit of policies, practices, procedures, our use of materials, our programming and collections, and so it really takes a three-pronged approach to a definition of sustainability, so it has to do with fiscal sustainability, making sure that what we're doing is financially viable, it has to do with environmental sustainability making sure that we are making the best use of the resources that are put into our care, and it has to do with social equity - making sure that to the best of our ability, the programs and services that we're providing are delivered to everybody that is in our charge to serve. And over the course of the year we just have completed a new planning process that is "Looking Forward with Your Library" and that was a, really, over a year-long process that was disrupted by the health emergency and moved from a process that was meant to be a totally in-person process to happen nearly entirely virtually. The first prong of that was a survey of staff members and community. We worked with a consulting group called Rethinking Libraries. They originally anticipated that with a community our size, in what they typically saw that we might anticipate, we would be doing well if we got about 100 responses to a survey that they helped us design, and as it turned out we got 10 times that many, so it is a testament to the engagement that we have with the community. In addition to the survey there was a whole series of stakeholder focus groups, that again was meant to be in-person but [we] had to pivot to [have the meetings] be done by Zoom and they were stakeholders - a variety of them in groups with focuses such as youth and education, sustainability, community and economic development, services to seniors, homelessness and poverty, and then a group of community leaders. There were also groups with staff, and based on the input that was gathered from the survey and this series of stakeholder focus groups, the consultants gathered that data together and then used that to inform a whole series of retreat sessions with stakeholder groups, with a group that was identified from among trustees, among library staff, and among people who had attended the stakeholder groups - and it was quite a time investment and commitment for the people who participated in that. There were five of those retreat sessions that resulted in a new Vision, Mission, and Value statement, and a new plan which was approved earlier this month.

So our vision has been rewritten, which is now: Our vision is a resilient community, empowered by collaboration, engagement, and learning. I've talked a little bit about this before in other meetings with some of the folks who are here, but the word that we want to bring special attention to in this vision statement is the word, "resilient". We had in our previous plan a big focus on sustainability, and we had originally wanted to put the word sustainable into this vision statement, but decided that the situation that we've endured together over the last year and a half is not one that we want to sustain but one that we want to bounce back from, and come back even better, so we opted for the word resilient rather than sustainable.

In a vision statement our value statement was rewritten to be - before it was essentially a paragraph that conveyed a lot of these ideas - what we've done is broken this out and made it a bulleted list so things like sustainability, equity, diversity and inclusion, collaboration and partnerships, community, accessibility, learning and innovation - and a word here that we want to call out particularly, is the word "devotion" which might seem a little bit unusual to appear in a list like this, but that is a word like resilient was, the word that we focused on in our vision statement. "Devotion" is a word that we toyed with back-and-forth about dedication. We settled on the word devotion because we think it's important. We like the idea that it conveys an emotional relationship between library staff, library trustees, and the work that we do - that really this is work for us that comes from the heart. And then our mission: so if our if our vision is our aspiration, it's where we hope for the community to be, and our values are the guiding principles to get us there, our mission is the work that we do every day in service of getting us to that aspirational vision. So what we do every day is we, "deliver resources and experiences that engage, entertain, educate, and empower our entire community." So you see that throughout the plan, which we'll go into a little bit more depth, there is this - just like sustainability was baked into our previous plan - we really wanted to bake in the notion here of equity, diversity, and inclusion making sure that everything that we're doing, thinking, saying really is in service to everybody in our community.

Unlike our previous plan which had sort of ten service priorities, this is a little bit more compact. It really has four strategic focuses: universal accessibility, community leadership, the library as a place, and the library as a community convener. So what do those things mean? To give you a little bit of an idea - I know on the screen you're looking at, we were having a little bit of a conversation before the presentation started about how hard it is sometimes to see words on a screen like this and I can imagine this is a challenge for people to see - but what we're saying about universal accessibility is that we offer something for everybody within our community, and that we have the spaces available for all types of needs, the way that people will want to use the library, that we improve the community's awareness of our offerings, and provide convenient and welcome access to those resources, and that we put a focus on equity, diversity, and inclusion in all of our services. And some of the things that we will do in service to this mission will be to upgrade our website - that's an ongoing process we'll put a date to achieving that, further investing in and expanding our outreach services and capabilities, especially trying to reach those with the highest needs and lowest access in terms of our materials, programs and technologies, and continue our exploration about whether - about how we deliver service to the remoter parts of our service area - you know I mentioned a service area which stretches from Lake Desolation to Saratoga Lake, so there are some very rural and more remote areas, and trying to figure out how to provide equitable and convenient access to our services to those areas is a challenge, and whether that means we will begin making greater use of a van that we were able to purchase recently with support from the friends, but also exploring the notion of, potentially, outposts for service within the outlying areas, whether that means partnering with agencies outside of the downtown core, or whether in the longer term, you know, perhaps exploring whether there might be a need for a branch somewhere in the service area.

So what do we mean by "Community Leadership"? We mean making equity, diversity, and inclusion really as an integrated part of our organizational culture, and to everything that we do leading on sustainability education, and demonstrating both our commitment to EDI and sustainability through the things that we say and do, and that we, through those actions we've become better positioned to help the community through a pandemic, through another crisis if we have one, and so it goes a step beyond saying that we will do these things, doing these things kind of quietly and changing our internal culture, but doing them in a way that we can become a standard bearer and really an example for other organizations which we know are - in the community - which we know are having these very same internal conversations.

So the library as a place really that means looking closely at the way our space is used to make sure that it is used in the most optimum way, so whether the space that we have devoted to collections might be better devoted to another, you know, to programming space for example, to study space; looking at making our space more experiential and interactive learning environment maybe throughout the building. So a great example of a way that we do that now is our Treehouse Room, which is within the children's room which is a space that is designed around early language acquisition, gross and fine motor skills, brain development, physical activities that we know are very closely linked to literacy, and seeing if we could maybe do that in other parts of the library for other age levels. So next, ensuring that we have spaces within
the library for all of the types of needs that we see in our community, needs in the way that people want to use our space - and then a real challenge for us is making our outdoor spaces, which are limited, as inspiring, inviting, and functional as possible. Right now we have very little green space. Most of our outdoor space is parking, and we know that there's a need for that, but we do also know that, increasingly, there is a need, a desire for people to be able to be outdoors, and to see what we can do to continue - we have over the course of the years converted some of our outdoor space to be more sustainable environmentally, and so maybe there's a way that we can take a close look at how we may go beyond a step, and change the spaces, maybe into more active rather than passive spaces. And then finally the Community Convener - which is a role that we have now, and this is kind of closely related to the Community Leadership - but what Community Convener means is continue to do what we do - you know I mentioned that over 200 different groups had booked space in the library before we closed in March, but continuing to have the spaces available for all of the organizations in the community which are having conversations to use the space, also to be a sort of safe and neutral ground to have conversations about potentially uncomfortable uh topics, but to be a safe space where people can come and have those conversations, and facilitating and leading networking opportunities, and that's where we take number four [Community Convener] number two [Community Leadership] to combine them, so kind of taking that work that we already do with inviting groups in to use our spaces, but then inviting groups to not only partner with us and collaborate with the library, but to collaborate with each other, and so in that way kind of amplifying the mission of all organizations, or many organizations together rather than individually - so really kind of amping up and helping to facilitate relationships that many organizations with similar or shared missions can work together.

I'm going to speed through a next few of these slides because those are the things that we just talked about. And to give you a little bit of an idea about the 2021 budget, where we think these are estimates of where we think the income will come from, and these there are some changes here over previous years. One thing that has not changed now for a number of years is the district property tax - which on the ballot is $5,205,672 - so that is no change from last year, or from the prior year, and what that means under New York State Education Law - because there is no change, we're actually not required to have a vote on the library's budget, but we do in situations like this in any event simply because we want to give the community an opportunity to weigh in. Some things that have - so additionally fines: we're anticipating about $20,000 in fines. This is down significantly from previous years, and the reason that is down is because last year the board took the action of eliminating overdue fines. So what this one this says etc., what this means there are still fees for things like lost, and not returned materials, and there are still fines that may be owed to other libraries, or residual fines that were owed before we stopped assessing them. So when I first started here, we budgeted about $90,000 a year in overdue fines and so you can see that's a significant decrease that we're anticipating. Donations: we're anticipating about $40,000 - again these are pretty significant estimates here. The primary source of donations to library programs and services is the Friends of Saratoga Springs Public Library. Grants and Aid: we are regularly in search of grants and aid, but this is by no means guaranteed, so there's an estimate here of $40,000. Rental Income: this is a decrease from previous years. There are three spaces at the library on which we collect rent: one is the Friends Book Shop - they pay us rent for that space. The other is some space on the library roof which is rented to Sprint for cellphone equipment, and then the third is the library café which has been closed for the last year and a half - going on two years now since the Bread Basket Café which had been in there, moved out shortly before we were forced to close in March of last year, so that space is vacant. And as part of this strategic plan that will really take a close look at the way spaces are used within the library. It's uncertain, really, what the future of that space holds, but it will be part of the planning, but for now there's no rent being collected on that space. Copiers and Printing: $10,000. There is some contribution from our retirees for their health insurance, and then this bottom number is balance on hand - so this is cash in the bank that we will use to make up the difference between these other items and the district property tax.

Some other highlights for the year: As I mentioned there will be no increase in the tax levy, just like last year and the year before that. There is a pretty significant realignment of the way that we're spending our money after last year in terms of the materials that we're collecting. So you saw early in the presentation that digital materials were, in some ways, overtaking circulation of some of our physical materials. We anticipate that that will likely continue for a while as people might still be hesitant to be out in the world, and also as people are able to take more advantage of streaming services at home, so we will be buying fewer print books in favor of ebooks - although the largest part of our materials budget is still dedicated to print books, so people don't need to worry that is going away, it's just going to be more augmented and supplemented by digital materials, and the same is true with digital audiobooks versus books on CD as you saw the downloadable audiobooks - the circulation actually overtook the circulation of the physical materials in 2020, and we anticipate that will continue. Some other highlights is that there are some mechanical improvements that we had anticipated would be done by the end of this fiscal year, which is coming up in a couple weeks. We weren't able to accomplish that simply because it is difficult, as you can imagine, a lot of contractors were not working over the course of the last year or so, and so getting in line to get that work done - you know we're - has caused some delay and so we anticipate that there are some improvements that were meant to happen in this year which will be deferred into the next year - and as we mentioned we'll place the real focus on expanding our outreach services, and that is to help bring library services and materials to other places in the community besides the library here in the downtown core.

All right, so that's the end of my presentation, I don't know if from among the people who are assembled here if there are any questions or comments, and if not there now is an opportunity - there are two trustee candidates on our ballot coming up on Thursday, and now might be an opportunity for each of them to say a couple words. The first in order of these are the order that they will appear on the ballot because this is the order that they were drawn out of a hat. So there are two openings, and two candidates. So Frank I don't know if you'd like to say something?

Frank: Am I unmuted?

Ike: You are, yes.

Frank: Just very briefly, you know for the last five years it's been my honor to serve on the board of this place; it's a very special place. During my last five years I have, you know, met some really dedicated staff from the library. I think I feel like i've learned a lot from them and and from this experience, and I'd like the opportunity to continue to contribute, and I hope that you give me that chance. That's all I have to say.

Ike: All right. Thank you, Frank. And then our other candidate is Carol Daggs who is here. Carol, would you like to say something?

Carol: Hello everyone, good evening. I just, I know I sent a typed bit to Mr. Pulver, and I had it out and I didn't know how to reduce this screen so that I could see what I wrote. I guess I'll just improvise, right? So mainly, I'm grateful to the Saratoga Springs Public Library for being an ongoing resource to the community and, you know when you discover yourself as a lifelong learner which, I have been able to do through the public library, it just is amazing to think that we have such an incredible treasure available to us. So I would just like to be a part of what allows the library to continue to serve the community, and I think I said in my writing that I would like to be able to feed what feeds me. So, thank you for allowing me this opportunity and, I'm reminded that it's [the vote] this Thursday because I was off with my dates, so thank you. Thank you.

Ike: All right. Thanks Carol.

And as carol mentioned, here we are so, the Budget Vote and Trustee Election is here at the library in the H. Dutcher Community Room from 9am to 9pm on Thursday, the 17th of June. The library hours for - you know collections and services - remain the same, we're still on reduced hours from 9am to 6pm that day, but access to the polls will be through the exterior Community Room doors and so - there will be - the polls will be open until 9pm. If there was something that you didn't learn about the budget here that you would like to learn more about, there's more information about it on the library's website at, and a few different spaces there and so we look forward to seeing you. There are also absentee ballots which are available from 9am to 5pm, tomorrow and Wednesday, in the Administration Office in the library.

Great. So that's the end of our presentation here, unless anybody else has anything to add?

Carol: I just was wanting to invite folks, if you're free on Thursday, which is the 17th, at 7pm - the Albany Institute of History and Art invited me for a book talk and it'll be at 7pm. If you'd like to register, it's on their website and the calendar, you know if you just click on the date for June 17, it'll come up and you can register so thank you and I want to say thank you to Jen too.

Ike: All right. Thanks carol - and you know and - speaking of feeding souls, for those of you who don't know Carol happens to be the author of this year's Saratoga Reads! selection, which has really provided a ton of fodder for discussion and interesting programming over the last year so. So thank you for that, Carol.

Carol: Thank you all. Thank you so much.

Ike: All right, anything else this evening? No? All right, have a great evening everyone!

Frank: Thanks, Ike!

Meeting Adjourned at 7:43 pm

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