Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Big $1.5 million Brainstorm

Ten Suggestions to Save and Generate $1.5 Million

Without Closing The Hamline Midway Library

The point of these suggestions is that they may not be "right." The point is that there are many alternatives to closing down a beloved and historic neighborhood library. The city needs about $200,000 to $300,000 to operate the Hamline-Midway branch, so you can reject, slice or dice these ideas however you like.

1. Voluntary Donation Bins (estimated revenue = $595,512.00)

Like Como Zoo, the City of Saint Paul should provide large and visible places for individuals to donate to the library at every branch in the library system. There should also be smaller, temporary donation bins for use at each library branch before and after adult and children’s events. Presenters and/or the head librarian should refer to the temporary bins before and after the free programs.

Library customers visited the library 2.7 million times last year, which means that a donation of just ten cents per visit or $1 for ten would generate enough money to staff the Hamline Midway library ($270,000). If the 108,504 people who attended a library program last year also donated an average of $3 each, SPPL would generate an additional $325,512.00 in revenue. SPPL currently has no systemic method of requesting voluntary donations in this manner.

2. Use Four Work-Study Students and a Half-Time Librarian II to Staff the

Hamline Midway Library (approximate savings = $200,000.00 - $250,000.00)

Partner with local colleges and universities to employ four work-study students who are seeking degrees in early education or library sciences to staff the Hamline Midway Library. Reduce the current Librarian II position to half-time. This plan does not eliminate any current union employees, because there were 4 FTEs added in the 2009 Adopted Budget, which were not filled, in addition to one existing position that has been left vacant. The approximate savings from utilizing work-study students would be between $200,000.00 and $250,000.00.

3. Temporarily Reduce Materials Budget by 50% (savings = $600,000.00)

The current materials budget is $1.2 million. The proposed budget is $806,000, an approximate 33% reduction. If the materials budget were reduced by 50%, the savings would amount to $600,000.00. This temporary reduction should focus on adult books and entertainment DVDs. When the next governor reinstates LGA, the materials budget will return to current levels.

4. Eliminate the Cap on Late Fees (estimated revenues = $50,000.00)

Eliminating the cap on the amount of a fine that can accrue against an individual would result in an estimated $50,000.00. This was an alternative considered by the library director, but was not incorporated into the final budget proposal.

5. Reduce Postage (estimated savings = $20,000.00)

Decreasing mailed materials for a savings on postage would result in an estimated cost savings of $20,000. This was a savings considered by the library director, but was not included in the final recommended plan for budget reductions.

6. Room Rental Fee (estimated revenue = $30,000.00 - $50,000.00)

Similar to Parks and Rec, SPPL could charge a minimal fee to reserve meeting rooms. 3,472 non-library meeting room events took place in 2008. If every library that does not charge a fee, (or does not charge a fee to non-profit groups) instituted a $10 meeting-room fee, SPPL would generate approximately $30,000 in additional revenue. A $15 meeting-room fee would result in $50,000 in additional revenue. A limited number of libraries already charge a fee to rent rooms, so this would simply expand an existing policy to the entire library system.

7. Increase Late Fees for Adult Materials by 25% (estimated revenue = $82,660.00)

The current budget states that the City of Saint Paul generates $275,642.00 from fines on adult materials and $55,000.00 from lost and damaged materials. Increasing these fees by 25% would result in an additional $82,660.00.

8. Fee for Interlibrary Loan Requests (estimated revenue = $15,426.00)

There were 20,569 requests from library customers for books from other libraries. Charging seventy-five cents for this service would result in an additional $15,426.00.

9. Late Fees for Children’s Materials (estimated revenue = $206,250.00)

Currently the City of Saint Paul is one of the only library systems in the Twin Cities metropolitan area that fails to impose a late fee for children’s materials. Both the City of Minneapolis and Hennepin County charge five cents per day for overdue children’s materials. Ramsey County charges ten cents a day. Dakota County charges five cents a day, with a $2 maximum for children’s books, but imposes a $1 per day overdue fee for children’s entertainment videos. St. Paul could add a daily fee for overdue children’s materials equal to the current daily fee for overdue adult materials, Although no statistics were available related to the number of overdue children’s materials, assuming the number equaled 75% of the overdue adult materials, the total would be approximately $206,250.00.

10. $1 Rental Fee for “New” Entertainment Videos (estimated revenue = $20,000.00)

Dakota County charges $1.00 per day for new entertainment videos. Specific statistics related to circulation of “new” entertainment videos were not available. Assuming, however, that patrons rent 100 new entertainment videos for 200 days each, this proposal would generate $20,000.00.


  1. These are all great ideas. Has the mayor or the library director directly commented? Is there going to be a meeting specifically to discuss these? Is this group meeting off-line?

  2. I certainly approve of the first suggestion, which has the advantage of not disadvantaging low income folks, which fee enhancements would do.

    That said, I don't think it would be unreasonable to charge a modest fee for use of the meeting rooms.

    It might be a mistake to spend less money on entertainment DVD's, as the unintended consequence of that might be to considerably lower the amount of money the library gets in late fees...