Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Indiana Public Libraries: serving the unserved


It probably comes as a surprise to many people outside of Indiana’s library community that a significant number of Hoosiers do not reside in an area served by a public library, nor do they pay a local tax for public library service. Annual report data collected by the Indiana State Library from 2006 estimates approximately 395,000 Hoosiers in 38 counties are unserved by a public library.

The report, “Streamlining Local Government” issued by Governor Daniels’ Indiana Commission on Local Government Reform in 2007 acknowledges the problem of unserved citizens and Recommendation #18 of the report proposes to: “Reorganize library systems by county and provide permanent library service for all citizens.”

The report, and some members of the library community have attempted to merge these two issues of library consolidation and unserved areas together when they are two distinctly separate issues. Consolidating existing library districts together will not automatically extend service to unserved areas, and other methods of attaining the objective should be examined if all Hoosiers are to be provided with library service.

Presently, areas not served by a library can voluntarily provide service to their unserved area via three different methods. First, an area, whether it be a city, town, township, or even an area as large as a county can decide to levy a tax and establish their own public library district.

It is important to note however, that until relatively recently, population size was not an obstacle to establishing a new library. Even though Indiana has a long history of developing their public libraries from the bottom up, representatives of larger library districts successfully lobbied the General Assembly to prohibit the creation of new libraries which would serve populations of less than 10,000. The rationale was that instead of creating smaller districts, areas wanting library service would be required to join larger existing library districts, bringing additional assessed valuation and presumably, additional wealth to the larger district.

It is recommended that the Indiana General Assembly revisit the issue of minimum library size and eliminate the restriction so that Hoosiers could return to the practice of building up their public libraries in our small cities and towns, and not from the top down where all we may have are large, inefficient consolidated systems in urban locations that are difficult for large portions of our citizens to visit.

As the Commission’s report noted, three-fifths (136) of all Indiana’s existing library districts serve less than 10,000 library patrons. Also, as the report noted, Indiana’s public libraries ranked second in the nation in 2004 in the overall assessment of library performance measures such as services, collections, revenues, and expenditures. The obvious conclusion must be that Indiana’s existing libraries are “right sized” for their populations and the continued development of small libraries should be encouraged, and not sacrificed to the unsubstantiated notion that bigger libraries are necessarily more efficient or better than smaller libraries.

The second manner through which library service may be extended to an unserved area is through a contractual arrangement. These contractual arrangements are negotiated between an elected board in the unserved area and a neighboring existing library district for level of service to be provided and the annual cost. A contractual arrangement does not require an entirely new district to be formed with a separate governing body or central administration. Service may range from simple access to facilities and materials, to bookmobile stops, to the operation of one or more service outlets in the area under contract.

A great advantage to this option is that the elected body in the unserved area can “shop around” between districts in area for the best bargain for their taxpayers. Contractual districts do not need to have abutting boundaries, nor do they need to even be in the same county so the contracting body has great flexibility to keep expenditures down. Contracts may also be renegotiated before a decision is made to renew, allowing the contracting area the opportunity to continue to seek the best service for the dollar they can find for their patrons.

The third manner by which library service can be extended to an unserved area is for the officials in the area to agree to simply join an existing district and be taxed the same as the citizens in the existing library. The citizens of the joining area would have the same borrowing rights and privileges as those citizens in the existing district, but there are no guarantees that once they join a district, the existing district might build or operate service outlets (branch libraries) in the newly expanded area.

These voluntary methods have been successful in some areas, but the desire for all Hoosiers to voluntarily tax themselves for library service is not universal so Indiana does not have complete library service. It is offered that the only way by which Indiana can have universal library service is through a state mandate, much like the mandate that every community be taxed to provide public education. Public libraries, like public schools, should be considered to be fundamental educational institutions and every Hoosier of any age should have access to the resources and services of a public library facility, conveniently located and ready to fulfill his or her informational needs. It is also vital to Indiana’s economy and the quality of life for its citizens for libraries to provide access to new information and communication technology.

Once it is accepted that the only practical way to provide universal library service is through mandate, a date for the commencement of service should be selected and legislated. In order to make the imposition of the mandate more palatable to taxpayers, the General Assembly should consider preserving the essence of the selection of voluntary options citizens now have about how library service may be extended into their area.

Consolidation of existing library districts by county, as noted earlier, has been mentioned by some to be a solution to the problem. Admittedly, consolidating all existing districts, coupled with mandating universal library service would solve the problem of unserved areas, but it is very likely the most expensive option for Hoosier taxpayers and the most distasteful option for many of the residents of the smaller existing districts. Not only would the new taxpayers of the previously unserved areas be likely to pay a higher tax rate than under other options, but all of the citizens of the consolidated district might also be likely to pay one of the statistically higher tax rates levied by larger libraries. The smaller libraries would also lose their independence and the great amount of local accountability they have in their communities.

According to Sam Staley, an adjunct scholar with the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, a study conducted by the Review in 2005 reported, ninety percent of the expert researchers who studied local government consolidation concluded that consolidation would not reduce taxes and that consolidation makes it more difficult to obtain government services. He notes in an article entitled, “Local Government Consolidation: Why the Savings are Sometimes Disappointing,” that “economies of scale work in reverse in government.” Larger government tends to produce more bureaucracy, regulation, and overhead.

Indiana libraries have certainly seen this to be true in the case of the Indiana State Library. After the transfer of $600,000 from being distributed directly to public libraries and the transfer of the appropriation for the Indiana Cooperative Library Services Authority to the state library, the state library created many new staff positions, approved extensive new rules for the certification of library employees, and began enforcing standards for public libraries that had long been ignored.

If universal library service is selected to be mandated, it is recommended legislation be carefully crafted to preserve the options of the citizens of unserved areas to create new library districts tailored to meet the needs of their community, negotiate a contractual arrangement with a neighbor, or join an established library district of their choosing. This might even be done without regard for county boundaries if a cross-county configuration is determined to be the most efficient and economical model available. Competition such as this develops efficiency and all Hoosiers are deserving of efficient public library service of high quality.

Phil Baugher

Indiana Libraries: fact sheet

Indiana Libraries: A Proud Tradition of Local Service
Indiana residents are served by 238 independent town, city, township, and county library systems.
Libraries in these communities were established by local residents and stand as proud reflections of their unique histories and of the choices their library boards have made in regard to the programs, services, and collections that are needed and preferred by their communities.

What Is the Library Policy of the State of Indiana?
The state shall encourage the establishment, maintenance, and development of public libraries throughout Indiana as part of its provision for public education. Public libraries provide free library service for all individuals in order to meet the educational, informational, and recreational interests and needs of the public. These library services include collecting and organizing books and other library materials and providing reference, loan, and related services to library patrons. These library services are provided by public libraries supported by public funds. (Indiana Code 36-12-1-8)

How are Indiana Public Libraries Governed?
Seven community residents, appointed by the elected members of the local school board and the elected representatives of local governmental units, serve without pay as library trustees for each library district. Appointing authorities provide public oversight for the library board and the library and they can recall an appointee if his or her service is deemed unacceptable. Library trustees set policy for their local libraries, provide administrative oversight, and serve as contacts for local citizens’ concerns and suggestions in regard to the services, programs, and collections of their libraries.

How are Indiana Libraries Funded?
Indiana public libraries are independent taxing authorities, each with the ability to levy a portion of the local property tax to fund the library. Library taxes are not layered, taxpayers pay only one library tax to a single library district no matter however many library districts might be in a county. Library tax levies (property tax collections) have been controlled by the state since 1973, allowing only small increases each year. New controls approved in 2008 will further, greatly limit property tax collections in Indiana. Indiana’s public libraries account for only 3.33% of all property taxes collected per year. Public library budgets must be approved by the Department of Local Government Finance and audited by the State Board of Accounts.

Public libraries do not have access to all of the funding sources available to other local units of government. Libraries do not usually benefit from gambling revenues, funds generated by the lease of the toll road, and the Community Economic Development Income Tax (CEDIT). Cities, towns and counties may also capture revenue from new developments for their own purposes at the expense of schools and public libraries through the establishment of Tax Increment Finance (TIF) districts.

Nationally, libraries are a great American bargain. “More than three-quarters of library users believe libraries spend tax dollars well. Even among non-users, 6 in 10 say they believe libraries use their funds wisely.” (source: Americans for Libraries Council)

What Library Services Do Indiana Libraries Provide?

The Indiana State Library reported the following statistics for 2006:
Total population of Indiana 6,080,485
Residents taxed for library service 5,690,040
Number of independent Indiana library systems 238
Individual and family resident registered borrowers 3,773,171
Individual & family borrowers as % of total pop. taxed for libraries 62.06%
Annual library visits by Indiana residents 37,371,757
Total state circulation of library materials 72,897,834
Circulation per capita 12.81
Annual reference transactions 5,463,901
Number of public libraries with Internet access 235
Number of public computers connected to Internet 6,311
Indiana users of public library internet terminals 8,564,650
Number of children’s library programs 65,834
Attendance at children’s programs 1,650,685
Number of adult and children’s library programs 107,450
Attendance at all adult and children’s library programs 2,537,951
Number of libraries that agree to participate in free reciprocal borrowing 155

Statistics are not the whole story. Because each library system is governed by an appointed board of seven local residents, individual libraries are able to respond to the needs and preferences of their communities with a wide variety of unique and special services, programs and collections. Examples are libraries that house an adult learning center, that schedule evening story hours for working parents of young children, that provide homebound delivery for those who are not able to come to the library, that operate local history museums and genealogical departments, and that provide public meeting rooms and kitchens.

How Do Indiana Libraries Rank Nationally?*

Library visits per capita: Indiana ranks 2nd in the United States
Circulation per capita: Indiana ranks 4th “
Reference transactions per capita: Indiana ranks 8th “
Computer terminals per 5,000 pop Indiana ranks 7th “
Audio materials per 1,000 pop. Indiana ranks 2nd “
Video/DVD materials per capita Indiana ranks 3rd “
Books and magazines per capita Indiana ranks 12th “
ALA-MLS librarians per 25,000 pop. ** Indiana ranks 8th “
Operating expenses per capita Indiana ranks 5th “
Number of public libraries Indiana ranks 14th “
Number of public libraries per capita Indiana ranks 22nd “
Collection expenditures per capita Indiana ranks 3rd “

*Statistics from the 2007 edition of The Bowker Annual Library and Book Trade Almanac and from the National Council on Educational Statistics

**American Library Association approved Masters Degree in Library Science

Indiana Libraries, small vs. large -- bigger isn't necessarily better -- it's just different

A study of the 2006 statistics of Indiana’s 239* public libraries illustrate that when the largest public libraries are compared to the smallest, there is no evidence that larger libraries are more efficient than smaller or that they are a much better bargain for taxpayers.

1. The tax rates for larger libraries are slightly greater than for the smaller – The average tax rate for the larger 117 libraries that collect property taxes is $.1066 per $100 of assessed valuation and the average tax rate for the smaller 117 libraries is $.1050. The slightly higher rate for larger libraries appears to refute the assumption that there would automatically be savings if smaller libraries were consolidated into larger units of service.

2. The average operating expenditures per person for the larger libraries and the smaller libraries are very nearly the same - The average operating expenditure for larger libraries is $47.59 per capita and the average operating expenditure for smaller libraries is $47.44 per capita. The difference is less than 1%.

3. Larger libraries spend slightly more on library staff than smaller libraries – Larger libraries spend an average $28.90 per capita for personnel services representing an average 62% of their total operating budgets. Smaller libraries spend an average $26.74 per capita for personnel representing 56% of their total operating budget. Larger library average personnel expenditures are 8% greater than for smaller libraries.

4. Smaller libraries spend slightly more on books and other materials than larger libraries – Smaller libraries spend an average $6.86 per capita for books and other library materials representing an average 15% of their total operating budget. Larger libraries spend an average $6.15 per capita for library materials representing 13% of their total operating budget. Smaller library average material expenditures are 12% greater than for larger libraries.

5. Many more larger libraries have bonded indebtedness than smaller libraries – 65% (75 of 119) of larger libraries have a tax levy for a bond and interest redemption fund compared to 32% (38 of 119) of the smaller libraries.

6. Many more larger libraries collect extra tax levies for capital projects than smaller libraries – 51% (60 of 119) of larger libraries have a tax levy for a library capital projects fund compared to 24% (28 of 119) of the smaller libraries.

Methodology - There are 239 library districts in the State of Indiana. The Joyce Public Library, Tyson Library Association, and the Fortville-Vernon Township Public Library do not collect a property tax levy to fund their operations so their tax rates are excluded from this study. The Willard Library and the Evansville –Vanderburgh Public Library share the tax collections in the library district so their taxing totals are combined and factored as a single library. Larger libraries versus smaller libraries were ranked according to the population served. The division of 117 was made between the Winchester Community Library with a population of 8,879 and the Garrett Public Library of 8,834.

Indiana Public Library Consolidation Fact Sheet

Public Library Consolidation in Indiana
Fact Sheet

What is library consolidation?
Consolidation refers to the combining or merging of smaller independent libraries into a larger library system, such as a county library system. Last year, a commission appointed by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels recommended that all public libraries be reorganized by county even though extensive comments provided by the public overwhelmingly opposed any proposed library consolidation and the commission’s report provided no documented evidence that library consolidation would be economically beneficial. Statistically, Indiana’s larger public libraries cost proportionally more to operate than smaller libraries.

What are the dangers of library consolidation?
If an independent library is merged with a larger library system, the residents of the independent library district would lose all local control over their library. Their library board, composed of trustees appointed by school boards and other local elected bodies, would be dissolved and the library system would cease to exist. The larger library system would then make all decisions about the budget, staffing, facilities, programs, collections and services for the residents of the previously independent library district. Cuts would be likely in all areas at the local level as the larger library board would seek ways to maintain their large, centralized facilities.

Are there any benefits to library consolidation?
Many proponents of library consolidation frequently cite the number of citizens in Indiana who live in areas not served by public libraries. Consolidation and unserved areas are two distinctly separate issues. Unserved citizens are not taxed for library service and the consolidation of existing libraries will not automatically provide them with service. Currently these citizens can voluntarily consent to be taxed for a library and establish a new library district, contract for service with an existing library district, or voluntarily join an existing library. If Indiana wants universal library service, it will probably have to be imposed by state mandate.

Proponents of consolidation also like to cite that larger libraries would generate “economies of scale” and lead to less cost. A recent study by the Indiana Policy Review noted that 90% of expert researchers familiar with the effects of consolidation in the past do not believe consolidation would lead to reduced taxes. In fact, the survey reports consolidation would most likely increase expenditures while reducing citizens’ access to services.

In some cases, the residents of a very small library system might benefit from consolidating with a larger system having greater resources, but this might come at the cost of losing their own local library building, requiring them to travel a much further distance to visit a library. This could be a quite a hardship some for the patrons who need library service the most such as seniors and the very young. Library boards should continue to have the right to voluntarily merge if they feel it is best for their residents, but consolidation should not be mandated by the state.

Aren’t public libraries responsible for the recent large increases in Indiana property taxes?

No! , Indiana libraries account for only 3.33% of all property taxes collected in Indiana. (source: the Blue Ribbon Commission on Local Government Reform: http://indianalocalgovreform.iu.ed ).

Second, the recent 24% increase in property taxes for Indiana homeowners is due to the elimination of the inventory tax on businesses (+4%), the cap on state tax relief (+4%), trending and changes to fair market assessing (+ 10%) , and is only partially due to increases in local government tax collections (+6%). (source: July 23, 2007, “Indiana Property Taxes: How We Got Here,” a report by Larry DeBoer,Ph.D., Dept. of Agricultural Economics, Purdue University, to the Indiana Commission on State Tax and Financing Policy)

Third, public library tax levies (property tax collections) have been controlled in some manner by the state since 1973, allowing only small increases each year. Legislation approved last year will greatly limit property tax collections far into the future and many library budgets will be slashed due to the new “circuit breaker” legislation. Other new controls will greatly limit the ability of libraries to bond for new buildings or to take advantage of alternate sources of income without reducing property taxes.

Fourth, the public library world has drastically changed over the past decades, necessitating new expenditures for computer automation, public Internet service, and for the purchase of many new types of informational resources (DVDs, CDs, CD ROMs, subscriptions to online databases, etc.). Growing populations in some areas have also required the construction of new buildings and the remodeling of older buildings, often requiring more staff and public demands for a wider range of library services.

Fifth, public libraries do not have access to all of the various revenue sources available to other local governmental units such as schools, cities, towns, and counties. A county economic development income tax, etc. (CEDIT), county optional income tax (COIT) and a county adjusted gross income tax (CAGIT) do not benefit public libraries. Tax increment financing districts capture new assessment values and the revenue stream they produce for the benefit of other taxing units.

Schools receive the majority of their funding from the state. Libraries receive no direct funding from the state. The public library state distribution ($600,000 for all Indiana libraries in 2006), was eliminated last year when the governor transferred those funds to the state library instead.

Are there many libraries in Indiana that could be affected by this change or are most of them part of larger library systems?
There are 239 independent library systems serving Indiana towns, cities, townships and counties. Most Indiana libraries are either small or mid-size libraries with only 10 libraries serving populations of over 100,000. Libraries in these communities were established by local residents and stand as proud reflections of their community’s history. The choices their library boards have made in programming, services, and material collections reflect the needs and desires of each unique community having a library.

What can I do to stop mandatory consolidation of Indiana’s Libraries?
Educate yourself about the issue and contact your local legislators to urge them to oppose library consolidation. Tell them the personal stories about how having a local, independent library have improved your life and your community.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Article from The Farmer's Exchange 4/25/08

Article appeared on page 4, of the April 25, 2008 issue of the Farmer's Exchange. Article is entitled "Consolidation Is No Way to Streamline State Government."

Click link to view article

Public Forum on Property Tax "reform"

Direct Link to Article

Article published May 12, 2008
If you go
The Common Council's public meeting on House Bill 1001 will be at 4 p.m. Thursday in the Recital Hall of Century Center, 120 S. St. Joseph St., South Bend.
For more information, contact the city clerk's office at (574) 235-9221.

Public forum on Indiana property tax reform scheduled
Ripple effects of House Bill 1001 starting to show.

Tribune Staff Writer

SOUTH BEND -- Property tax bills may be lower and sales tax is up, but those aren't the only things that will change in the future because of the Indiana General Assembly.

On Thursday, the public will have a chance to find out the full effects of House Bill 1001 and talk to government officials about the impact. House Bill 1001 is the property tax relief legislation passed by the General Assembly during the last session.

South Bend Common Council will host the meeting at Century Center, and the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns will give the presentation. A question-and-answer period will follow. Officials from South Bend, St. Joseph County, Mishawaka and the county townships have been invited.

The ripple effects of House Bill 1001 are starting to show, as local officials look for ways to trim budgets and comply with the roughly 550-page law. Here are a few ways the law has affected the community so far:

# The state sales tax increased 1 percent at the beginning of April. The money from the increase is meant to be used for property tax relief.
# The St. Joseph County Public Library is closing all of its branches on Saturdays this summer. The library board also has approved a $300,000 reduction in purchases of new books and other materials in its 2008-2009 budget.

# The St. Joseph County assessor's office has been busy preparing to take on township assessing duties. Most of the township assessors in St. Joseph County will be eliminated by July 1. Voters will get to decide whether to keep the Portage and Penn assessors in a referendum in November, because both townships have at least 15,000 parcels.

Local officials say that House Bill 1001 will severely affect services such as public safety, schools and libraries. All of the taxing units combined in St. Joseph County could lose an estimated $34.6 million over the next two years.

Staff writer Jamie Loo:
(574) 235-6337

Friday, May 2, 2008

Indiana Libraries not alone regarding Public Library Consolidation

I am preparing to meet with State Senators and Representatives regarding my opinion about library consolidation.

It seems that a few of our friends in New York are also gearing up to retain local control of their public libraries. In my research I have found that they have some excellent ideas about inter-library cooperation that deserve serious investigation.



Thursday, May 1, 2008

Good article on property taxes from Indiana Business Review

I read the article, though I must admit I'll have to re-read it a few times to understand it. So far, in my opinion, all of the work done on property taxes might just be a wash once the "dust has settled."

Read the article here: http://www.ibrc.indiana.edu/ibr/2008/spring/property-tax-policy-questions-answered.pdf

Monday, April 28, 2008

Normal "SNAFU" for property taxes for Indiana

The South Bend Tribune reported in an article dated April 23, 2008 that tax bills for a majority of Indiana Counties will be delayed due to reassessment and the carry-over from last year. The article reported this will cost Marion County between $30 and $50 million.

At the moment NCPL is on okay financial ground. Just how long this last is anyone's guess. We have yet to receive our approval for our 2008 budgets (we received approval for our 2007 budgets late in 2007). We have enough for our June mortgage payment, but paying the December payment could be dicey. Article is here (archived after 7 days): http://southbendtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080423/NEWS01/762493560

Monday, March 3, 2008

Engrossed version of HB 1001

Found here: http://www.in.gov/legislative/bills/2008/EH/EH1001.2.html

Contains many references to public libraries in Indiana, but two stand out (document is more than 600+ pages) so far in my reading.

First is the potential for fiscal body review for library budgets. The DLGF can't get to us information for publicizing our budgets by the required time as it is. If we need to lengthen the time required for additional review we will be lucky to have budget approval until two years after the initial budget year. NCPL still hasn't received anything from DLGF about our 2008 budget and it's March 3. For the 2007 budget year we didn't receive anything until after September 12, 2007.

Secondly is the moving of the tax rate for LCPF to within the controlled levy limit.

I view both of these as treacherous for public libraries in Indiana.

Potential Circuit Breaker Tax Credits

Following is a link back to the New Carlisle Public Library's website with information from the Indiana Legislative Services Agency. It is a table noting potential circuit breaker tax credits as of 2/19/08

Senate Fiscal Policy Committee

Meeting with Senator Arnold (D) Indiana Senate District 8

Senator held an informational meeting at the New Carlisle Public Library on Saturday, March 1. Most of the information he relayed pertained to HB 1001 and his reasons for voting against it. Senator arnold re-affirmed his stand on keeping public libraries as they are and not consolidating them into county-wide units. Arnold distributed information to attendees and on the back of one of these handouts was the result of one of the survey questions: "Do you support or oppose allowing countywide library districts to consolidate local libraries?" Per Senator Arnold over 1,000 people responded to the survey and 62% OPPOSED CONSOLIDATING LIBRARIES AND 38% supported consolidation.

Those of us receiving the Legislative Information through the Indiana Library Federation are well aware of the implications of HB 1001 and we are actively attempting to minimize the negative effects that it will have on public library budgets here in Indiana.

Here are two .pdf documents that were handed out during Senator Arnold's meeting.