Metro libraries preparing for possible cuts

Tuesday, December 15, 2009 at 11:45pm

Bracing for what could be a tight Metro budget next fiscal year — but to the chagrin of the city’s finance chief — the Public Library Board on Tuesday set parameters for cuts it may have to make next year to its current $18.9 million annual budget.

“We are preparing ourselves in case we are facing yet another budget reduction,” said Donna Nicely, director of the Nashville Public Library. “This is our way of trying to plan ahead and be ready because the next budget reduction is going to have immense effects on the library systems.”

The framework adopted by the seven-member board is divided into three separate proposals based on severity and priorities, accounting for cuts of 3 percent, 5 percent and 10 percent, respectively. Steps within each proposal aren’t necessarily bound together, and would likely be adjusted or combined according to the actual budget shortfall.

“I want to emphasize, we know nothing from finance, and we don’t know where we stand,” Nicely stressed. “We’re just anticipating that we may be asked to cut again.”

But Metro Finance Director Richard Riebeling called the steps “very premature” and “speculative,” adding that the public library department is being presumptuous.

“We’ll do a budget kickoff sometime in late January, and that’s when we’ll set out the parameters,” he said. “To tell you what [next year’s budget] is today — I would be making it up.”

If Metro’s 2010-2011 budget requires the public library system cut operating costs by 3 percent, then the department could reduce weekly hours from 50 to 40 at the city’s larger branches, which include the Bordeaux, Edmondson Pike, Green Hills, Hermitage, Madison and Southeast libraries.

If it’s asked to enforce 5 percent cuts, the department may opt to pare 12 of the system’s smaller branch libraries by assigning one set of staff to oversee operations at two libraries. Under the scenario, impacted branches would stay open for just 20 hours per week by alternating days of operation. Donelson, East, Edgehill, Hadley Park, Inglewood, Looby, North, Old Hickory, Pruitt, Richland Park, Thompson Lane and Watkins Park libraries would be affected.

The most draconian measure discussed Tuesday –– the remedy if the department is asked to trim 10 percent –– would be to close libraries, possibly some combination of the Donelson, Hadley Park, Inglewood, Old Hickory and Thompson Lane branches.

In the event the library’s budget is increased, then the department would try to re-open the downtown Main Library on Mondays and restore Friday hours at the city’s larger branches.

But based on recent history, a budget increase is unlikely. Implementing cuts to accommodate next fiscal year’s budget would continue a pattern for the public library system, which reduced its budget by 5.5 percent this fiscal year and 4.3 percent the previous fiscal year.

4 Comments on this post:

By: frank brown on 12/16/09 at 8:57

Does Metro schools still teach children in the fifth grade how to use the Dewey Decimal System?

By: idgaf on 12/16/09 at 10:26

Here we go with the sky is falling again.

Get rid of the wireless system and upgrade the inhouse computers .

If they are going to close libraries do it on alternate days so we are not without service.

Get rid of Nicely she dosn't know how to run the operation "nicely".

By: d4deli on 12/16/09 at 1:03

Sounds like a boy scout to me. Be Prepared. Given the cuts that keep coming, Nicely is wise to prepare with a plan of action. It would be wonderful if it would not need to be implemented, but given our current economy, the scenario is a likely one. Every Metro department should be ready. Nicely has set a good example. Yes Virginia, the sky may be falling!

By: JeffF on 12/16/09 at 6:20

If you promise to withhold her name to protect her from political backlash, Nicely may tell you what she really thinks of the convention center and the hotel. She has publicly put Lord Riebling on the spot while the debate still rages on the convention center. I love that Nashville Priorities had their press conference at the main branch on a "Closed For Budgetary Reasons Monday".

Of course there was no reason to build the main branch in downtown anyway. The overhead and building requirements necessary for that decision weighs heavy on the group that has to operate that facility miles and miles away from a majority of Nashvillians. But Downtown must have the monuments to its own greatness no matter how few of actual citizens can actually use and enjoy them. Landport Ho!!!!