Champaign Public Library Budget Shortfall May Lead to Reduced Hours

The Champaign Public Library is $500,000 short of the funding needed to maintain current service levels in the coming budget year. Unless additional city funds can be directed to the library, hours of operation will be need to be reduced after July 1. 

The reason for the shortfall is that, while operating expenses rise each year, library tax revenue has fallen. Champaign property tax provides 92 percent of the library’s budget. In the past, that income has grown as the city has grown. With the recession, however, property values have declined and are expected to remain flat for several years, leading to a deficit that would grow each year without action to correct the problem. 

According to Library Director Marsha Grove, “The library anticipated declining tax support and began reducing spending in 2009. We eliminated the Bookmobile and limited use by people living outside Champaign-Urbana. We’ve left 14 staff positions vacant. We’ve cut spending for collections, programs, maintenance, supplies and training. We also increased overdue fees to raise revenue. But these steps are no longer enough to close a widening budget gap.” 

Explaining the need to reduce hours of operation, Grove said, “Personnel is the greatest expense for a service organization like the library. To balance the budget, our only choice is to cut staff. With 14 positions already vacant, further staff cuts would require us to reduce service hours.” 

To achieve the needed savings, the library would be open 31 fewer hours a week. Monday through Friday, the Main Library would open at 10 am instead of 9 am, and close at 7 pm rather than 9 pm. The library’s Douglass Branch would be closed on Mondays and close at 6 pm rather than 8 pm Tuesday through Thursday. All weekend hours would remain unchanged.

“The library carefully considered how to reduce hours with the least impact on the public,” Grove said. “Still, for many people, including families, working people, computer users, students, and groups with meetings, we know that this would be a significant change.”

The library is currently working with the Champaign City Council to see if funding can be allocated to allow the library to maintain current service levels, both in the coming year and into the future. “The library remains committed to providing our community with outstanding public library service, as well as being fiscally responsible,” Grove said.