The Austin Chronicle

Library: More Working Room

By Michael King, August 31, 2012, News

In the last few recessionary years, the Austin Public Library (like Parks and Rec) was among the first departments targeted for cuts. With the local economy finally easing a bit this year, the 2012-13 proposed budget includes "funding for 12 new FTEs and dedicated funding for temporary employees to alleviate the growing burden on current Library staff." Some of this is making up for lost time, some of it is pointing in the direction of the new Central Library, and some spending has been reactive (e.g., to security problems: the library has been installing interior and exterior cameras in all facilities, a project to be completed by the end of this year).

We should get a closer look at the new Central Library project fairly soon. Library Director Brenda Branch reports: "We have completed the Schematic Design phase of the New Central Library project, ensuring throughout the process that Austin's next central library will truly be a library for the future. The Design Development phase is currently in process and the completed package will be presented to the City Council on September 27." Carrying out that plan, the proposed budget includes $6.2 million in appropriation for the new library.

The budget also gives a snapshot of the growing scale of library services. The library anticipates more than 3.5 million visits in the coming year, program attendance of 130,000, and per capita circulation of 6.27. "Web hits" are topping 20 million, which tells us something about the state of contemporary reading. Pointing obliquely at previous "cuts in staffing levels," the budget proposes "the addition of eight essential public service positions and funding in the amount of $150,000 for temporary employee costs."

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