Library defends increased funding request

Friday, February 15, 2019

The Library Board sat in the hot seat this week as they defended an $8,500 increase request for their budget as the city takes a hard look at how it will fund necessary street projects and new equipment purchases.

Librarian Andrea Hogrefe and Board member Gretchen Miller went to bat to defend spending on children’s programming, newspaper subscriptions, summer programming, large Amazon purchase amounts and wage increases.

City Council approved a compromise, giving a $5,000 raise which brings the library’s new budget to $47,675.

One example was the library’s “build a bear” activity coming up this weekend, costing $12 per child, with 20 children signed up to participate.

“That’s quite a bit, $12 per child,” said Council member Vi Tilk, suggesting the library offload the cost to the children’s parents.

Teddy bears weren’t the only ones getting glares. Print newspaper subscriptions were another suggestion for cuts.

“Do people actually read in print?” asked Tilk. City Council members suggested moving to all online subscriptions at a cheaper rate, particularly for the Des Moines Register.

Hogrefe responded with the comfort level of some for reading on computers at the library, particularly those who are older. There are also a limited amount of computers available that would be taken up should they need to be used for reading news, as well, she said.

“It’s something they would like you consider,” Mayor Al Clark said. “And it is the 21st century.”

Amazon purchases of $1,000 caught a few eyes. Hogrefe broke down the amount for common items such as books and DVDs. Itemized receipts will be attached in the future to avoid the miscommunication again.

Wages will also take up a substantial portion of the funding. The library plans to extend hours, particularly in the summer when they are only open four hours per day.

A 3 percent raise was planned, equivalent to county raises given to most public employees in Buena Vista County this year.

The librarian will be aiming to work about 29 hours per week, up from her current 20-25.

“What are the benefits of extended hours?” Walsh asked.

“Just having the library open and available for people to use it,” Miller responded. “They do an incredible job for programming and youth. Parents agree 100 percent how good the programming is and how involved kids are in it. That’s a win for everybody.”

That hour extension will help keep kids in structured activities during the summer in conjunction with the school’s summer lunch program.

“We have to kick kids out the door when it’s time to close,” she said. “This is a positive environment for kids in the summer.”

“If we see really positive results, we’ll reevaluate this again next year,” said Council member Kevin Walsh.