Weather Forecast


Library use up in down economy

Wadena City Library representatives are justifying a budget increase for 2009 based on increased use of the library because of the economy.

Kitchigami Regional Library Director Marian Ridge proposed the 2009 budget for the city's share of the Wadena Public Library at $57,388, about an 8 percent increase from last year. The city library is part of the Kitchigami Regional Library system, with libraries in Wadena, Beltrami, Cass, Hubbard and Crow Wing counties.

The largest budget increase proposed for 2009 is the addition of a group health insurance plan for employees who work 32 hours or more per week on a regular basis.

Mayor Wayne Wolden said the city is looking at an inflationary increase in the overall city budget for 2009 and the library's budget proposal of about an 8 percent increase is above that.

"Everybody loves libraries but in reality we have to take a look at the total and we can't sustain an 8 percent increase each year," Wolden said.

Paul Carlson, president of the Wadena City Library Board and the city's representative and chair of the KRL board, explained that the economy has affected the amount of use at the library.

"With the economy ... there's been a big increase this year, kids and adults," Carlson said. "We're seeing people who don't usually come in that much there every day now because the library is an outlet they can afford."

Computer use has increased "astronomically," Ridge said. One month, the number of people who used the Internet was close to 35 percent more than the year before.

"It seems like no matter how many more computers we add, the appetite for the service has already outstripped what we're doing," Ridge said.

The public demand for both the facility and the services are going up at amounts higher than the investment that is being made in the service, Ridge said.

The mobile library is also seeing increased use.

People can no longer afford casual trips to the city so they use the mobile library, Ridge said. Also, many people are coming to the library with their lap tops to use the library's line speed because they can't afford to have it at home, she added.

"We are certainly, around the region, seeing the impact of the economy," Ridge said.

One of the largest budget increases proposed for 2009 is the addition of group health insurance for employees who work 32 hours or more per week on a regular basis.

"For some time, Kitchigami has struggled long and hard with the issue of having wages and benefits that were seriously below the standards for public service in Minnesota," Ridge said. "We hope that you will recognize that this is a step that is long overdue to ensure the well being of our employees."

Now, employees who work more than 20 hours per week receive a supplement of $150 to purchase their own health insurance. The supplement will continue in 2009 for those who work between 20 and 31 hours per week.

Another increase proposed in the 2009 budget is in the shared collection part of the budget. Ridge said the library would like to add home access for the electronic database, Value Line, which is an investor database for those who manage their own investments.

One area that will decrease in the proposed budget is the deliveries from other libraries, which will be reduced to three days per week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Toby Pierce asked how much the state funding changed this year.

Ridge said the funding increased but the outstate regions received considerably less than they thought.

"We lobbied hard, but the formula that the state uses results in the majority of the dollars going to the Twin Cities because they have the population," Ridge said.

Geography, population and tax capacity are the factors used in the formula, she said.

Renee Frethem, branch manager for the Wadena City Library, requested additional custodian services on Mondays. She said it is hard for the staff to keep up when the library is increasingly busy. The library began opening on Mondays again at the beginning of 2008.

The future of the library was also discussed during the budget proposal.

The city of Wadena is looking into buying the property directly east of the library to use for expansion. The local library board has earmarked $30,000 in funds for the new library and is looking at fundraising as well, Carlson said.

The city council will continue budget discussions at a meeting on Sept. 4.