We're encouraged by Russell Long's vision for the challenged library he has been hired to direct. Last week during his introduction to the community, he said "The library should be a prime cultural center." He's right the library should be among the places downtown that people visit not just to check out books but to hear speakers, hold public meetings, take their children for enriching activities, and more. Bolstering such cultural venues ought to be among the driving forces in downtown's rejuvenation.
The key to accomplishing that, however, depends in part on money. A library can't be staffed, programs developed or facilities refurbished when the dollars are few. Unfortunately, money for the library is hard to come by these days. Voters twice have rejected propositions for a tax that would have doubled the library's budget to $400,000 annually.
Long said he recognizes the need for new revenue. He also noted what he'd like to spend money on: keeping the library open longer, hiring a children's program leader, adding more books and materials to check out and hosting more music shows and lectures. In short, making it a prime cultural center.
Coming up with new revenue sources is the real challenge before Long. While a foundation and Friends of the Library group exist, supporters and the library's governing board likely will have to get creative in generating revenue. After all, local governments and taxpayers probably aren't going to give the library more operating dollars anytime soon.
Fortunately, libraries don't have to solely depend on taxes to cover their expenses. Libraries in many urban areas have added coffee shops to their facilities, for example, generating tens of thousands of dollars in funds annually. Other libraries have created sponsorship programs in which local businesses and clubs pay for various programs and guest speakers; this boosts what the library can offer, usually with just a few spoken words and lines of text plugging the sponsor.
We're not saying the library needs to compete with local businesses only that there are a variety of new, unique ways of generating significant revenue. The opportunities are there to be seized. Let's seize them.