Big business at small-town libraries |

Big business at small-town libraries

Mary Ann Trygg
Special to The Union

If the soul of a good library comes from its patrons, the heart is its collection.

Nevada County residents expect their libraries to contain books, magazines, newspapers, references, CDs, movies and other resources that are relevant to their lives and their needs.

Library users come to our libraries for any number of reasons. One measure of the value of the library is the number of items circulated each year. Library use peaked in 2008-09 when the library system checked out 726,836 items. We’ll finish out the current year by circulating more than 660,000 items.

Yet, we foresee somewhat fewer checkouts this year. We believe part of that is simply due to shorter operating hours. Up until December 2008, the Madelyn Helling Library, Grass Valley Library-Royce Branch, and Truckee Library were open a total of 156 hours per week. Those were reduced to 120 hours per week.

Currently, because of the poor economy, these same libraries are open a total of 110 hours per week. Considering these modifications to library service, however, library usage is still strong; while hours have decreased by about 29 percent, circulation has only dropped by about 9 percent.

Another reason for decreased usage may be because of the need to cut back in all areas of library spending due to a steady two-year decline in sales tax revenue.

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The eighth of a cent sales tax measure in effect until 2018 makes up more than 70 percent of the library budget. The library’s budget for materials has been reduced in each of the last three years, which means we have to make every dollar count.

If it were not for the tremendous fundraising efforts of our Friends of the Libraries groups in both western and eastern Nevada County, the libraries would not be where they are today.

Friends’ monetary donations, grants from the William and Marian Ghidotti Foundation, and donations from the public have played a major role in building quality library collections.

Further efforts to stretch library funds include tapping into the buying power of a consortium of northern California libraries called NorthNet Library System.

This network does group buying negotiations for the 27 library jurisdictions represented, including Nevada County.

As a result, the library system now offers a new downloadable audio and ebook program called LibraryToGo.

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