Tuscaloosa Public Library limited by level funding

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Tuscaloosa Public Library limited by level funding

CW/ Keely Brewer

CW/ Keely Brewer

CW/ Keely Brewer

CW/ Keely Brewer

Rylie Curry, Staff Reporter

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After years of receiving level funding, Tuscaloosa Public Library officials claim the library will be unable to operate longterm without an increase in funding.

The budget for the library is decided by local government funders after the library submits a budget request. In recent years, the library has received less funding due to revenue issues and has received the same amount of funding each year since 2017. Tuscaloosa Councilman Kip Tyner, who has served on the library board, said the library’s budget is not evenly divided between cities, making it difficult to properly fund.

“The real story is that Northport doesn’t come close to paying their share,” Tyner said. “The library is funded by the city, county and Northport, not just Tuscaloosa.”

Since 2017, the library has received $1.84 million from the city of Tuscaloosa, $1.31 million from the Tuscaloosa County Commission and $50,000 from the city of Northport annually. Vince Bellofatto, director of public relations and marketing for the Tuscaloosa Public Library, said staffing is impacted the most by level funding.

“The Tuscaloosa Public Library doesn’t have funds to hire new staff or the sustainability to commit to bringing a person on the payroll or growing a department,” Bellofatto said. “Also, less staff means less programs, online resources and services provided. Bills, payroll and utilities continue to go up every year, but funding stays stagnant.”

Bellofatto said while the library can continue to operate with level funding for the next few years, it will not be able to within the next 10 to 20 years.

“Currently the library dips into our reserve accounts to pay for unforeseen bills or problems that are not addressed in the budget,” Bellofatto said. “Unexpected maintenance issues are the biggest problems.”

College students are also impacted by the library’s level funding. Local college students go to the library daily to study, use computers and check out materials. Level funding could lead to cuts to services, materials and online resources, which can limit students’ access to items they use or check out.

Ann Whitney Chappell, a freshman at the University of Alabama majoring in fashion design, said she frequently uses the library to check out books and study.

“The Tuscaloosa Public Library has been extremely helpful throughout my first year of college,” Chappell said. “I really love reading, so anywhere that I can access free books is beneficial to me. Plus, it’s a great place to study.”

Moving forward, Bellofatto said the library will continue to push for increased funding from local governments and apply for grants.

“An increased guaranteed funding source is the real answer,” Bellofatto said. “Currently no one funder is willing to make that promise.”

INFO

Fiscal Year-to-Date Stats

October 2018 – February 2019 comparison to October 2017 – February 2018

  • 14.09% decrease in items circulated
  • 53.52% decrease in database materials accessed
  • 0.87% decrease in overall patrons
  • 17.60% decrease in new cards issued