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Library News

By: Virginia Volkman, Library Director
For: Red Rock News
Date: February 19, 2010

How Sedona Public Library Is Funded

Throughout the country libraries are stretching dollars as they struggle to meet the rising demands for library services with reduced funding.  In Sedona, despite a reduction in operating hours, we are showing an increase in the number of items checked out to patrons.

With reduced hours, though, fewer people are able to visit the Sedona Public Library.  From June 2009 through January 2010 we show a door count of 128,032, down only about 1% from this time last year.  It’s surprising, given that our hours have been reduced by almost 13%.  For the most part, it means that we do more business during the limited hours we’re open.  So you can expect it to be just a little more crowded sometimes and maybe you’ll have to wait to use that computer you were planning to jump right on to.

According to an American Library Association survey, more than half of responding state library agencies (52% or 24 states) reported recent cuts in state funding for public libraries, with 11 states reporting cuts greater than 11%. 

When I worked at a public library in Pennsylvania, the library was a department of Northampton Township, in the same way that the Parks and Recreation Department was.   The library was mostly funded by township property taxes, with additional direct funding from the state.  That’s not so in Sedona.

Local residents and visitors are often surprised to learn that Sedona Public Library is a private library that contracts for services with the City of Sedona and the two counties within which the town resides.  Only about 9% of the libraries serving towns are private and outside the governing structure of the community, yet provide typical library services to their users.

Prior to receiving funds from the City, the Library obtained funding in a number of ways.  We received money and direct support services from both Coconino and Yavapai counties, as well as significant donations from individuals, usually through the Friends of the Library, and funds from fines and fees (photocopy, printing, and others).  County funds were based on property tax assessments levied to support library services.  That support continues to this day.

When the City of Sedona incorporated, the Trustees of the Library approached the newly formed government with the offer to contract for providing library services in place of the City having to do so.  Given the many things that the fledgling City had to focus its attention on, the offer was accepted.

The case was made that since the majority of communities in the nation offered library services via their governmental entity, the existing Library could relieve the City of the challenge of creating, building and managing a library.   It could also be done by the existing Library less expensively, with volunteers providing almost half the total labor to operate the Library.  As a result of these efforts by the Board of Trustees, a rather unique partnership was born.

Today the Sedona Public Library is funded through contractual agreements by the City of Sedona, and Yavapai and Coconino counties.  The City uses sales tax revenues to meet its obligation, while the counties continue to use a property tax assessment to do so. 

Further funds are still provided by the Friends of Sedona Library.  Much of the funding we receive from the Friends comes from the sale of used books and other items.  On a monthly basis, the group brings in almost $2,000 in sales through online efforts and in the small area in the library devoted to ongoing sales.  Last week was a banner week, with $2,200 raised in the sale of books along with a mini-sale of music CDs, videos, and DVDs.

The Friends also run two big sales a year, usually in the fall and spring.  The last of the semiannual sales raised approximately $13,000.  With outstanding donations to put into their sales, along with membership dues, the Friends are able to commit to funding about 8% of the library’s budget.  It is our arrangement with the local governmental agencies, though, that fuels most of our budget.

The nearly unique partnership between governmental agencies and the Sedona Public Library, a nonprofit 501 (c)(3) organization, has allowed our users to enjoy a full range of services.  We’re open 48 hours each week, during which time our internet computers are available and the wireless connection can be used by people with their own laptop computers.  Meeting spaces, displays, programs, and access to over one million items through the Yavapai County Library Network are other services enjoyed by the over 200,000 people who come through the doors on an annual basis.

The partnership has been successful and over time has proven worthy of continued support by the City and counties.  In 2008 Sedona Public Library celebrated its 50th anniversary.  During those years two library buildings were constructed entirely from donations.  The Library’s formula of private and public support has created a community center which is a source of pride for all.

Virginia Volkman, author of this week's article,
is Director of the Sedona Public Library.

Library News appears each Friday in the Red Rock News
and is also presented on: Gateway to Sedona and Sedona Biz.