Number of branches comparable to similar systems in U.S., Canada
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg library system was neither “overfunded” nor “overbuilt” before the county imposed big cuts on the system last year.
Information from 55 other library systems in the U.S. and Canada that serve similar population sizes shows that the system is right in the middle in spending, the total square feet of library space and the number of branches its operates.
“I can’t conclude from this that we had too many branches,” said James Woodward, chairman of a citizen task force studying the library system. “And I will tell you I came on the task force thinking we had too many branches.”
The information gave some reassurance to task force members that the library was on solid ground before the recession hit in 2008, but it doesn’t give the group insight into how other library systems are responding to budget cuts. A research group at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte is putting together information on budget cutbacks to library systems in 13 comparable cities and counties, including those the Charlotte chamber considers Charlotte’s main competitors.
The task force has a March 1 deadline for delivering its findings to the library system’s board of trustees and the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners.
While the task force continues to wrestle with its main recommendations, the group endorsed positions in two areas: volunteer hours and private fundraising.
The drastic cuts in library staff and hours prompted an outpouring of volunteers, particularly for town branches Matthews, Mint Hill, Cornelius and Davidson, but the task force, after hearing from the library staff, agreed that the system can’t expect volunteers to continue giving that amount of time “after the current crisis environment dissipates.”
In the current fiscal year, volunteers will account for about 9 percent of total staffing hours for the libraries. That amounts to 54,000 hours of volunteer time, a 349 percent increase from 2007.
Task force members agreed that library staff should set a continuing target of volunteers contributing at least 5 percent of total staff time for basic library services. The group needs to make clear that volunteers “can be a supplement but not a substitute for paid staff,“ Task force member Bob Bisanar said. “I think some segments of the community think that a lot more can be done with volunteers than is realistic.”
Setting the target won’t blunt the library’s efforts to keep volunteers, Karen Beach, the system’s director of community engagement, assured the group. “We don’t ever want to turn away volunteers,” she said. “That’s a target. We don’t stop at that.”
Though they debated a target amount for the library to raise, task force members agreed that the library system needs to increase its fundraising efforts and begin planning for an endowment campaign.
Woodward, who is president emeritus of UNC Charlotte, and Pamela Davies, president of Queens University and another task force member, said library trustees should consider creating a foundation with the task of raising donations for the library.
Davies suggested the library study the fundraising model used by the YMCA, in which local branches recruit volunteers to lead fundraising efforts. Michael DeVaul, senior vice president of organizational advancement for the YMCA of Greater Charlotte, said his organization raises $3 million to $4 million annually, which represents 10 to 15 percent of the Y’s annual budget. DeVaul also serves on the library task force.
Library leader to step down
Charles Brown, the director of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg library system, announced Wednesday afternoon that he will resign, effective June 30.
At an earlier meeting of the library system’s board of trustees, officials also announced that the consolidation of library and county services has resulted in elimination of the library’s director of organization resources. Brian Beavers, the current director, will leave the library system on Feb. 5.
With the executive shakeup, the system will save up to $50,000 in executive compensation in 2011, according to library documents.
The trustees have hired former executive Vick Phillips, a former Bank of America executive, as the library system’s interim director. Brown’s salary is $170,974 a year, and he received an $800 monthly auto allowance and benefit package equal to $56,079, according to the documents. He will take a 20 percent cuts for the final three months of work.
Beavers was paid $84,978 in salary and $27,872 in benefits.
Phillips will received $13,000 a month in salary and $1,500 to cover health benefits. If he stays an entire year, his total compensation will early $174,000.