Planning for Better Times

Monday, October 19,  8:30 – 10:00

Mary Rose Quinn, director of Stevens Memorial Library in North Andover, MA and Ron Van Winkle, Town Manager for West Hartford, CT discuss the hard decisions that have to be made in times of economic strife and share ideas on how we can look down the road and plan for better times.

Mary Rose Quinn:
Three downturns in last 10 years: 1999, 2004, now. When you are in good times you are planning for the bad, and when in bad, you are hoping for better. Planning is key. What are your library’s priorities – what are those things that you can’t live without?

Be mindful of ebb and flow of budgets. If you add new technology, can you sustain it in the next economic downturn?

Town manager insists that items in the library budget are rearranged in terms of priority.
1. People
2. Collections
3. Technology
4. Physical plant.

Think strategically and prepare for the siege. Library directors should read “The Art of War” and/or learn to play chess.
Plan for the best while anticipating for the worst.
Have a Plan B – not to be shared with town officials. Have your contingencies in place. ” But  If” -What can you afford to live without while maintaining your services.
What is sustainable and what is not.
Gather your allies.
Marshall your forces and build strong community partnerships. (Rec dept & Senior Center)
Make a friend of your town manager. Make sure thay understand your services and will advocate for you.
“Hang together or hang separately”
In a downturn, libraries are vulnerable and need to build a moat – take stock – what’s important and communicate what your priorities are.
Preserve what you value and make tough choices.
Reduce book budget to save jobs – you can fund raise for books, but not salaries.
Elevator message (Gates Advocacy) – simple message for the parking lot.

Boston Public Library was cut last year by 4-5 mil. had a Ref Ctr for businesses, but closed that branch and moved it into the Copley Square branch which led to increased hours, more accessible, increased attendance, higher level of effectiveness.

Librarians and tragic flaws:
“But we’ve always done things this way”
We try to do too much with too little.
We believe that if we work for others, they will come to our aid – vs every man for himself.

In budget meetings with town officials:
Do not offer any info you are not asked.
Do not throw any one else’s budget under the bus.
Present “we are one big happy family” working toward a common goal.

In a long range plan, focus on the ideal – if you get it you have to be able to sustain it.
In tough times, retrench rather than retreat. Reinvent and plot your next move for when economics improve, recapture your lost ground.
Technology is a prime mover.
Attend: 12:30 “What if”
State of the States.
8:30 Tues Difficult financial times
12 steps
When time are tough ithelps to laugh.

Ron Van Winkle:

Libraries are key for community.
Town managers have a tough role in a downturn.
what is the difference between a town manager and a dog – if you let the dog in, he’ll stop whining.
We have lost 8 mil jobs in the last year (2 mil in 2002) Unemployment at 10% and rising.
Harshest and longest since the great depression.
W/o the stimulus package, the economy could have had and unemployment rate well into the teens.
NE is better off than the nation (NE lost 300k = 4%) in this current recession
1989-92 = biggest recession in NE, lost 600k and 10%

Recession is over – car accident scenario – in recovery – will be OK
In the meantime, conditions are harshUnemployment will continue to rise.
Borrowing fell, industrial manufacture declined, household debt fell, worst housing market, 23 trillion dollars of wealth evaporated.
Wealth to income is lowest since 1951.
We will probably need a second stimulus by extending unemployment benefits, mortgage supports, first time homebuyers credits, tax reductions, aid to state gov, new health plan, new energy policy, Bush tax cuts expire.

Local level:
Property taxes. No new building, decline in tax revenues, health care climbing. NH third highest property taxes, CT is #1, MA in top 10
Foreclosures are occurring in every town. No one wants higher property taxes
Connect and communicate to your town what library issues are:
increased need for library services in a downturn, libraries increasingly provide social services.
Make sure your community understands and values the library’s services.

Every community values the library. Be a marketer and entertainer and a financial officer – Know your budget well.
People looking to relocate to your town by buying or building houses, want to move to a town with a great library.
provides big incentive for town managers to supprt the library.

More than just a library, you are a person, you are part of the solution to the recession, identifies the town – library as the heart of the community.

What can your Friends group do for you if they arn’t providing funds for the book budget.
Beg and plead not to have a disproportionate cut to the budget come out of libraries and senior centers.

Advocacy efforts through town newspapers – local platforms.
Yahoo group
Weekly library newsletter
Quarterly print newsletter from the library
Twitter and Facebook
Word-of-mouth Tell people who come to programs to spread the word.