Category Archives: SJCPL News

More about SJCPL

The local NBC affiliate profiled SJCPL’s budget issues and building projects. It gives a little more backstory for Deb Futa’s speech. WNDU leaves their stories up and open so it’s a better place to link instead of the South Bend Tribune.

It’s no secret that local governments are facing major budget cuts. The St. Joseph County Public Library is no exception. As we’ve been reporting, the library has been forced to cut $1.6 million dollars from its budget, each year. But despite the cuts, the library has new branches under construction. It has some residents wondering where that money is coming from?

St. Joseph County’s Library Director, Don Napoli, says there’s a very sensible answer to all of this. Napoli says the construction is part of a capital improvement budget, it’s a separate budget than the library’s operating budget. He says the new buildings are part of a long term bond project that’s been approved for awhile.

Napoli says the operating budget has taken a hit since property tax revenue has dropped significantly. He says by law the money from each budget (operating and capital improvements) can’t be swapped or traded. Napoli says it’s been tough to explain this concept to some library patrons, many are upset over the library being closed on Saturdays during the summer.

But officials say the good news is the new facilities will ensure the library has a good future as things continue to change in technology. “These expansions will actually save us a great deal of operating expenses over the long term,” says Napoli. “A lot of things are going to go electronic, of how we do things in our buildings, including the four city branches that are being designed with new technology.”

“I think it’s nice that they’re opening the two facilities. We normally go to the Roger B. Francis branch and that’s one where they’re building a new one. Think it’s neat we’re building a new library,” says Chris Wilson, a local library patron.

Times of Drastic Change

I had lunch last week with Debra Futa, the Assistant Director of SJCPL, my former library. I enjoyed it because we got to “geek out” a bit with discussions of library processes, workflows, etc. The library has a some building projects going full steam ahead, including a brand new branch library in a few years. We also talked about the budget wors facing many Indiana libraries. Deb shared with me part of a talk she gave at the library’s staff day. I found it inspiring and straight-forward. It might be helpful to other Indiana librarians. She’s graciously allowed me to publish an excerpt here (with some emphasis from yours truly in bold). After describing the many successes of the library system in the past few years, Deb said:

“…We’re also looking at something new – less money.  For 20 years, we had the funds to expand and to prosper.  We had plenty of new materials, we had lots of programs, we did outreach, we attended conferences, we hired new employees.  By the end of 2010, we’ll have 1.6 million dollars less to do all of those things.  And operating costs continue to rise.

We’ve always changed but this is change of a new sort.  Presidential Medal of Freedom winner Eric Hoffer said,  “In a time of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future.  The learned find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.”

Well we are nothing if not learners.  We’ve spent much of the past 10 years learning to embrace the changes in libraries – constant new technology, Web 2.0, roving reference, self-service.  But this – this may be the hardest change yet because it feels like we’re moving backward instead of forward.  The real challenge is to learn (there’s that word again) how to prosper and retrench at the same time.  And that’s a difficult thing for all of us.

The word Learn is the first word of our Vision statement of Learn – Discover  – Enjoy. 

So what kinds of things are involved in this new learning? We’ll need to learn how to do our work with fewer resources. We’ll need to learn what programs are most effective and make changes accordingly. We’ll learn how to operate 10 buildings for about the same cost as 9 buildings.

And we’ll learn how to work in a new reality where we don’t have as much of everything.

Although we’re cutting back, there are also things we’re committed to doing:


  • We are committed to finding a salary increase for employees next year.
  • We are committed to reducing employee numbers through attrition, not layoffs
  • We are committed to not reducing scheduled hours – if your job description says 20 hours, we’re committed to maintaining that unless you voluntarily reduce it.

These are not promises – the amount of our tax revenue is out of our control – but we have committed to finding ways to do these things

This year’s learning is all about how we’re going to accept and embrace a new reality.  We have until the end of 2010 to trim 1.6 million dollars from our operating budget and we’ll also need approximately 9 full time equivalent positions just to open German Township.

Can we do it?  Absolutely.  It’s why we’re starting early.  Taking into account the already vacant positions and the positions we know we’ll lose this year, we’re halfway there in staffing costs.

We are a terrific library and you are a terrific group of people.  Our staff surveys have always shown that one of the best things about coming to work at SJCPL is the people – our co-workers.

We’re all in this together and I hope we’re all working toward the same goals.  We want to continue to provide innovative, excellent service to our patrons and create a welcoming workplace.  Our shared purpose is still reflected in our mission and vision statements:  Learn  Discover  Enjoy.  That vision translates not just to our public but also to ourselves.”

This is hard, serious stuff. I was at SJCPL for almost 15 years – in a time when we had lots of funding, loads of technology and great opportunities so it is especially sobering for me. I wish the folks there and in all Indiana librarie the very best as they find their way through these times. 


SJCPL Blog Patron Posts

An inspired way to invite participation in the library blog! The folks at SJCPL are featuring library patron John D. Smith sharing how he uses the library. I heard that this will be the first of an ongoing series. Think about it: John tells family and friends he’s posted on the library blog and they take a look, etc. This could lead to more participation and maybe even folks asking to do guest posts!

Well done SJCPL!

SJCPL News: Library cuts summer hours to reduce expenses

Margaret Fosmoe writes at the South Bend Tribune: (Link will expire very soon)

The county library plans to cut service hours, purchases and staff by 12 percent this year and 12 percent in 2009. Staff will be reduced through attrition and not layoffs, Napoli said. The summer Saturday closings will help achieve the goal of fewer service hours, thus reducing salaries and utilities, he said.

Very similar to what ACPL has planned. I feel bad for Indiana libraries. Didn’t the folks in charge down in Indy realize how the prperty tax reform would mess with library budgets? Do they care?

Library administrators will recommend by August how to proceed with hours for the rest of 2008. Saturdays are busier after schools resume. “We may be looking at something very different during the school year,” Napoli said. 

Other library cuts approved:

-A $900,000 reduction in personnel. So far this year, 15 positions have been vacated or soon will be vacated through resignations or retirements. Including benefits, total savings so far is about $369,000, said Napoli, who referred to it as a “semi-freeze” on hiring.

-A $300,000 reduction for 2008-2009 in purchases of new books and other materials.

-A $300,000 reduction in spending for services and supplies, including savings on cleaning supplies, a cheaper supplier for light bulb purchases, setting thermostats 2 degrees cooler in the winter and 2 degrees warmer in the summer, and elimination of all travel for professional meetings. 

It’s the last one that really stung – I remember always having a budget to attend ALA or CIL when I worked at SJCPL. What I would suggest is the Staff Development folks at the library look at all of the online opportunities for conference-type sessions and take full advantage. Just think: staff could checkout 5 shared presentations from CIL2008 that have audio and slides and then discuss. 

Libraries facing this kind of cut could also take full advantage of the online seminars and conversations offered here and there. What would you suggest to ease the pain of not attending conferences?


Tax relief may cut county library hours – Closing Summer Saturdays?


SOUTH BEND — Indiana’s new property tax reform law may mean the elimination of Saturday hours at all St. Joseph County Public Library locations, library Director Donald Napoli said.

As a result of the new law, the county library is looking at a possible loss of $790,000 in tax revenue in 2009 and a loss of $1.6 million in 2010, plus elimination of $750,000 in the library’s capital projects fund, Napoli said.

“We’ll probably close on Saturdays come this summer,” he said. “We need to deal with it right now. We can’t wait until next year.”

Reduced funding also likely will mean a reduction in staff through attrition and a 12 percent cut in purchases of books and other library materials in each of the next two years, he said.

The grim forecast is based on income projections by the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns as the result of the new law, Napoli said.

Napoli and library trustees will discuss the fiscal impact at a meeting of the library board at 4:15 p.m. Monday at the Main Library, 304 S. Main St.

The budget cuts won’t affect the county library system’s building projects. The four city branches each are being renovated and expanded by 3,000 square feet. And ground will be broken this spring for a German Township Branch and a replacement Francis Branch in Clay Township