Library Annual Report with 2011 Statistics
Letter from the Director
“The Library strengthens our community…” so begins the mission statement of the Spokane Public Library. We strengthen it by promoting literacy, which is essential for living a productive, successful life. Current research into brain development, school success, and even library programming confirms that those who read, succeed. And isn't that what we all want for our children and our community?
Library usage is expanding and new services are being added in order to stay current with research and technology. In this time of shrinking budgets how can the Library afford to continue providing services at the current level, let alone expand them? The Library has the flexibility to hold down expenses because it bargains independently with its represented employees and can retain any savings accumulated throughout the year. However, the Library has had two years with a completely flat budget and we anticipate another flat budget for 2013. So after three years, the Library will no longer be able to sustain current service levels and citizens will have to make some very serious choices for the 2014 budget year. How will we, as a community, ensure that citizens are made strong through access to robust library services?
While this is going to be a difficult conversation, I do look forward to engaging with citizens about it in the coming year. This is your library and your perspectives are extremely valuable as we move forward.
We are presenting our annual report through the eNews this month for a couple of reasons. First, it is the most cost-effective way to produce the report and second, it reaches the most people this way. Reaching citizens is of utmost importance so they can be aware of the services offered as well as the fiscal challenges facing the library. Thank you for reviewing the report. Please contact me with any questions or comments.
New Technologies - Digital Branch
More and more people are accessing the library without ever coming to the building. How do they do this? They visit our digital branch and find a large collection of research materials, music to download (and keep) through Freegal, e-audiobooks, and a new and growing collection of ebooks that they can download to their Nook, Kindle or other eReader or computer. For those customers whose busy schedules prevent access during open hours the digital branch fills a big need. For some customers it’s not just a digital branch they’re after-it’s a mobile digital branch. These folks benefit from some new mobile apps have made library access much more friendly:
• BookMyne is an app that allows you to check the catalog, your account, renew items and place items on hold – all from your phone, iPod or iPad.
• Freegal just got better with a mobile app so you don’t have to transfer your music to your portable device from your computer – you can download straight to it.
• Overdrive – you probably already want your ebook on your phone or eReader and now you can download it directly.
We have over a million connections to our website every year. Whether you walk in the building, connect to spokanelibrary.org or check in via your phone, we’re glad you’re here.
What do most people associate with the library? Books. Whether the old-fashioned paper kind, audiobooks or eBooks, books are what most of our customers come looking for. With so many books available (there are over 100,000 titles published every year!), it can be daunting to find a good read, but our expert staff has a number of tools to help customers find the perfect book. Who has extra time to read books that don't suit them!? Almost no one, so we're here to help.
Yes, we make a big deal about Summer Reading, and it's one of the most popular programs of the year with thousands of participants (6,943 last year). Why the big deal? Research shows that kids who read in the summer do NOT lose educational progress and are ready to start their next grade level successfully. Plus, it's fun and free. Finding affordable activities for kids in the summer can be a challenge, and the libraries help fill that need each year.
"Do more with less!" That seems to be the motto for many businesses these days, but it's getting harder to find ways to do it. This is where the library comes in. Our business librarian, Mark Pond, has attended and presented to business networking groups in Spokane for the last few years, pitching the library's tools. After a recent presentation, Mark got an email from the City's Director of Business & Development, Teresa Brum, "Mark, this is fantastic! Thanks for the quick response. I admit that I was originally doubtful that you could live up to your slogan ("Google on steroids") but when I compare the results of our Google search to the library's search...you come out way ahead!" Mark's work with Teresa saved her time and gave her better results. At a time of tight budgets, that's "more with less," indeed!
How did we get so many exhibits into the library last year? Simple: we put a sign in the downtown gallery saying it was available. The response was phenomenal, and since then we have been able to book the space on an almost continual basis. The gallery and its displays serve a number of purposes. The gallery provides a venue for local artists and a way for us to feature traveling exhibits offered through grant opportunities. The exhibits are lively and draw visitors to the library. This past year we've seen a 9/11 memorial photography show, a local artist's watercolors, a traveling exhibit from the Burke Museum in Seattle, student work from ESD 101, and a t-shirt display from Lutheran Community Services, just to name a few. Exhibit fever has spilled over to our neighborhood branches with smaller shows hosted at those locations. The added color and interest is welcome in all our libraries and we're glad to be able to provide venues.
The genealogy department at the Downtown Library is powered by an amazing group of volunteers who give over 1500 hours of their time to the library every year! Listing the specific things they do (maintain the collection, help customers) doesn't really explain the magnitude of their work. But…when a customer gushes about finding information about her great-grandmother and the help the genealogists provided, that does say it. The genealogists help people knit their family histories together. It's extremely gratifying, time intensive work, but the volunteers make the genealogy collection accessible and relevant for visitors from near and far.
Grants and Community Partnerships
They work together and build on one another. Really. Here are some recent examples:
• Why did the city decide to fund the Library's WorkSource Connections Lab in 2012? The service is heavily used AND the community values it. This is demonstrated by their funding (the first year of funding was from a state grant, the second year of funding was from the Inland NW Community Foundation and, this year, the city funding is being augmented by a grant from the Spokane Public Library Foundation).
• How did the library get fiber optic cable to all branch libraries, new software, video cameras and equipment to loan out to community groups? We partnered with TinCan for a federal stimulus grant and got it! The grant improved access to technology for our entire community.
• How did over 500 people get their taxes prepared, free of charge, by IRS certified volunteers at the Downtown Library? We partnered with the United Way's Tax-Aide service to provide a venue and service for those needing this help.
• And, breaking news! How are we one of eight libraries nationwide to get a grant to host the Discover Tech: Engineers Make a World of Difference exhibit? We partnered with TinCan to write a stellar grant application and design excellent programs to go with the exhibit which opens on September 29 at the Downtown Library.
We also want to recognize two of our most important partnerships. The Friends of the Library and the Spokane Public Library Foundation work directly with us to raise funds to supplement the budget. The Foundation's endowment provides an annual grant to the library, and the Friends provide grants and revenue from the sale of discarded library materials and donations. The support of these two organizations is much greater than the sum of the $ they provide. They give citizens a way to show their support for the library, and their members become advocates for us in times of need. Like our other partnerships, the Friends and Foundation nurture the library and nurture our ability to form additional partnerships to benefit Spokane's citizens.
How can you help maintain the vitality of Library Services so the Library can continue to strengthen our community?
Last year volunteers donated 4,367 hours to the library. If we had paid for those hours, it would have cost a minimum of $37,861. From you, we received 3,006 donated titles worth approximately $66,126--this freed up budget dollars to buy additional titles.
This year you can help by:
• Becoming a Friend of the Library
• Communicating your support to the Mayor and City Council
• Thinking about a bequest to the Library Foundation
• Being a Library user, whether in the branch or through our website services
• Sharing the information in this report with others and telling them why the Library is important to you.