Once again public libraries have had a difficult and painful yet inventive year. Dwindling revenues means less outside training and services as directors try to avoid staff layoffs and pay/benefit cuts. My former organization, BCR, was one of many casualties as library service providers consolidated and tightened their belts. Hopefully over the next year or two the economy will improve and funding will be restored to at least pre-recession levels, but meanwhile, libraries have become leaner, more efficient and more cost effective than ever. We are spending residents’ money wisely and providing more bang for the buck as they turn to us in droves for the free materials, programs and services that give them relief from the stresses of everyday life. Be it employment assistance, computer training, information about charity sources or just free entertainment, libraries are helping our communities in a myriad of ways. And less money has made us more creative than ever as we try to do more with less.
Closures are still happening, here and abroad, and that’s very discouraging. But we’re offering 24 hour access to libraries (and not just our databases, virtual reference and web resources) and reaching out to the community more than ever. We’re getting a lot of publicity – every few days the Denver Post has yet another story on libraries. And not all of it is bad news – yes, some libraries are cutting hours, but others are reopening. We’re promoting new technologies (and yay! soon the lack of Kindle compatibility may not be such an issue). And we’re getting so much better at advocating.
So how has your public library fared this year? How painful was the belt tightening, and how have you coped with less money and more stress on your resources (including staff)? And what will 2011 bring for your library?