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New York City libraries want 10 year funding plan

by Public Libraries on September 22, 2014

Dollars

Whenever it rains in New York City, workers at the Sheepshead Bay library rush to move computers and valuables into another room to avoid a leaky roof.

The leaks have been so bad in the past, in fact, that patrons have had to walk through knee deep puddles of rain. Library branch manager Svetlana Negrimovskaya said the city’s libraries are in maintenance crisis mode. It comes at an inopportune time too, as more and more residents are flocking to city libraries.

The Center for an Urban Future recently released a report called “Re-envisioning New York’s Branch Libraries”.

In the report, it states Mayor Bill de Blasio and his administration have the perfect opportunity to fix up the libraries in the five boroughs. It also has the ability to put each library on proper footing with room to grow for the countless number of visitors that depend on them.

The City has three nonprofit library systems including the Brooklyn Public Library, New York Public Library, and the Queens Library. BPL has 60 locations, serving residents in Brooklyn. The New York Public Library system is America’s largest system, with 88 branches and four research centers throughout the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island.

It was reported that the library system needs an estimated $1.1 billion in funding this year, and that doesn’t include money that would be necessary to forge the system into the 21st century with amenities such as ebooks and more outlets for mobile devices. Officials believe the chances of receiving that amount of money are very slim. One reason for this outlook is the fact that many residents believe elected officials already aren’t doing all that they can for the library, making it hard to fathom them approving a larger funding sum going forward. Much of the money that could be used is being allocated to other projects already.

That said, since 2004, the city has allocated $500 million toward library system improvements, which the report calls insufficient due to the amount of work the infrastructure requires. The report continues that the library systems have their hands tied due to the fact that all of their funding decisions are based more upon political matters than actual maintenance and design needs.

In short, the library systems will either get a much-needed jolt of vitality or continue to slide downhill based on the decisions of local elected officials in the near future.

Close to 36 million people went to the library system’s 207 branches in 2013. An estimated 2.4 million children visited each branch for special programs (like a librarian-hosted story time, for example). In a 10 year span, patronage to each library system increased by 46 percent. Members that attended special programs rose by 62 percent.

The Center for an Urban Future report goes on to point to other big city library systems and what they are doing right. It said New York should emulate cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco; these systems created a 10 year plan to justify funding.

A spokesperson for the de Blasio administration, Marti Adams said the Mayor knows how important the library is to each community and its residents. She said that is why de Blasio increased the budget by $10 million and will continue to do what he can to invest in New York City’s library systems. For now, it remains to be seen if that is all talk or if a significant amount of money will go to area libraries.

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Texas library creates amnesty program for late fees

by Public Libraries on September 15, 2014

Overdue books

The Houston Public Library is in a forgiving mood. Patrons that have a balance on their accounts due to a lost or misplaced item such as a book or DVD can have their fines erased from the system under an amnesty program the library is currently offering.

The program is only available to those that sign up for the “My Link” library card by Sept. 26 and have less than $25 in fines. Houston Public Library is providing this incentive so it can reach its goal of 1 million registered users by the end of 2015. It currently has about 773,000 cardholders.

My Link library cards are the first new cards generated by the library system in over 14 years. Although there isn’t an added bonus over the current library cards, library officials say current cards will soon become inactive. The My Link cards will help deliver advanced data regarding the user experience at the library.

Houston Mayor, Annise Parker said the new program gives library patrons a clean slate. Stating if users were worried about going to the library because they owed money, that worry should be instantly wiped away. She added the new cards will help the library gain a better understanding of the services used and how to best allocate those resources going forward.

Houston Public Library Communications Manager, Greg Simpson said nearly 171,000 people are qualified for the one-time amnesty program. He said that accounts for roughly $1.8 million in fines. The library system expects a total of $100,000 worth of fines to be waived through this initiative. The public library estimates it collects roughly $550,000 in fines each year.

The amnesty program has piqued the interest of a few patrons that have left the library system to avoid the rising fees. It has also made the day of others that weren’t aware of the program and were told that their fees were no longer due.

Simpson said many library members forget to return a book or DVD altogether or simply don’t have the time to return an item. He said communications are sent to each person that has an overdue book by e-mail, text, and telephone call. Even with all of those options, people still end up accumulating significant fees.

Jerry Davis a District Councilman is all for the amnesty agreement. A father, whose children have racked up a few fees of their own, is happy to wipe the slate clean with My Link. He laughed, stating he will finally be able to take his children back to the library. He added that he still finds library books while house cleaning.

Library Director Rhea Lawson said while the amnesty program helps individuals get out of a small debt, garners good will, and a new card can create excitement. This process is part of an overall transformation in recent years, Lawson said with the library expanding its electronic resources, it has evolved into a community center that can link users to anywhere in the world. What was once a place to sit and read books has opened up to become a link to the entire world.

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Floating library makes a stop in New York City

September 9, 2014
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More and more libraries are becoming creative and pulling out all of the stops to try and bring new patrons through their doors. Many libraries are starting to offer ebooks, while others are completely digital and don’t offer traditional paper books at all. New York City is offering something a little different for a month when the Floating Library comes to the Hudson River from September 6 through October 3. […]

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Florida Polytechnic University features a bookless library

August 29, 2014
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The newest public university in Florida is trying something a little different with its 11,000 square-foot structure – going totally green. Florida Polytechnic University, located in Lakeland is taking a bold step by offering a digital catalog of 135,000 ebooks. Paper books will not be offered at the fully digital library. FPU, which is not yet an accredited school, has an enrollment of 550 students in its inaugural class. Students […]

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Taneyhills Community Library joins consortium so they can offer ebooks

August 25, 2014
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The Taneyhills Community Library in Branson, Missouri now officially offering ebooks. Kent Olson, Board President of the Taneyhills Community Library said the service became available to its patrons a week ago. Olson said charging for library cards and other services at the library has helped make it possible to loan out ebooks. Without these small fees, he surmises, it would not have been possible to install an ebook system at […]

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Seattle Public Library encourages authors to write ebooks

August 8, 2014
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Seattle Public Library is hoping to pique the interest of area writers with an opportunity to show off their talents in the form of an ebook. The library has partnered with Smashwords, an independent publisher and distributor of ebooks, to offer a self-publishing platform for aspiring and established Seattle, Washington writers. The pair have also teamed up to offer a self-publishing contest, in which up to three individuals will have […]

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Summer programs boost library attendance in Florida

August 4, 2014
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There aren’t many empty seats at the South County Regional Library in Estero, Florida. The library recently reported a significant increase in traffic during the summer months. More than 2.8 million people have visited the 13-branch Lee County Library System this year with South County Regional Library boasting record numbers this summer. Terri Crawford, Deputy Director of Lee County Library System said the response of the community has been great […]

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Miami-Dade County to increase public library budget

July 25, 2014
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Miami-Dade County in Florida is experiencing an all-too-familiar crisis in recent years for librarians: public funding and budget crisis have prevented libraries from operating at full capacity for several years now. Combine that with the slow-creeping epidemic of library abandonment amongst youth, and Miami-Dade’s libraries have definitely been feeling the squeeze. Luckily, county commissioners just last week voted for a tax increase in the area that would result in an […]

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Amazon tries to appeal to Hachette authors

July 18, 2014
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The feud between Amazon and Hachette has been detrimental to many authors and readers. Not only are readers not getting access to upcoming titles, authors are not able to market their new releases. Amazon, at least, is now making it possible for the authors to make a bit more money off the ebooks they do manage to sell. Like any other publishing company, Hachette makes a percentage out of every […]

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Borrow a drone from the library?

July 10, 2014
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Libraries are extending their collections beyond books and movies. More than ever, libraries are trying to meet the needs of their communities by providing computers, printers, and classes. However, the recent purchase of drones by the University of South Florida may create even more headaches for them as they consider how the drones are used. The drones that were purchased can fly up to 400 feet above ground and record […]

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