Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 39
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
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Library Board Approves 2009 Budget, Notes Concerns for Future Funding

Ellen Gilbert

The recently approved Borough and Township budgets enabled the Princeton Public Library Board of Trustees to officially approve the library’s budget for the year at their meeting last week. The total operating budget for 2009 is $4,690,446, a .24 percent increase over 2008. The original request for 2009 had been $4,781,521.

The final budget includes a $30,000 infusion from the Friends earmarked for collection development, to compensate for losses like the five percent reduction in state aid. An unexpected boon was a $20,000 gift from the J. Seward Johnson Trust to support Springboard, the library’s after school tutoring program.

Other reductions this year, like an eight percent drop in anticipated late fees and a near-11 percent drop in rental fees and user charges, may be reflections of the current economic climate.

“It’s our busy time,” noted library director Leslie Burger at the meeting, which was chaired by vice president Bob Ginsburg, in president Katherine McGavern’s absence. Friends president Pam Wakefield reported that the ongoing book sale has been “hugely successful,” earning $31,000 as of the end of August. Total earnings for last year’s ongoing Friends book sale were $23,000. Added space for the sale’s “gently used” books, resulting from the closing of the library’s gift shop, were credited for the dramatic increase in revenue this year. This year’s total will be in addition to the proceeds netted at the upcoming annual Friends book sale, scheduled for October 2 through 4. “Get your Christmas presents” Ms. Wakefield encouraged everyone, noting that the annual sale will include books from the collections of “several distinguished Princeton professors.”

In her report to the board, Ms. Burger noted that response to the RedBox kiosk, which was installed the week of July 12, “has been positive so far and rentals have increased steadily over the last few weeks.” About 200 DVDs are rented each week at $1 apiece from the kiosk, which is located near the rear entrance to the library. Total sales for July were $904, and for August $1,378. “A fair amount of the weekly revenue comes from extra days of rental,” observed Ms. Burger, adding that the “RedBox has not affected our library movie rentals.” I Love You Man was the top rental for the week ending September 6.

Beginning October 1, the library will offer patrons incentives to borrow more from the library’s own film collection with a new “recession buster DVD” deal. In order to get slow-moving titles off the shelves and earn more revenue, the library will offer pre-2008 titles at $1 for three nights, instead the usual single night. The new arrangement will be evaluated at the end of the year.

The recent program featuring historical fiction writer Philippa Gregory, earned $3,500 for new library books, Ms. Burger reported. “This was an experiment to see if readers would pay a modest ticket fee ($10) in return for a guaranteed seat and great evening with a well-known author,” she said. “Based on the response to Ms. Gregory, it appears that people are happy to do this. It’s a win-win for everyone.” A similar event, with Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul, and Mary) will be held in January.

Looking ahead to next year’s budget, Ms. Burger reported that a slowly growing economy, fewer grants from the state and federal governments, and escalating costs all point to a difficult time making ends meet. Municipal support for the library “hovers between 78 to 80 percent annually,” she noted, with the remainder of the library’s operating budget raised from a combination of fees and contributions. “Obviously, we need to find a long-term source of predictable funding that will allow us to maintain services and grow in response to demand,” she noted. The library’s upcoming Centennial celebration will, she hopes, offer “a unique opportunity reach out to our community of users about our long-term financial needs.”

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