Who pays for the library?
newspaper article in the Dyersville Commercial
Do you ever wonder how a library is funded? Just who is paying for all those books and computers and programs? And who decides who can use a library or what fees they might have to pay? At the June 13, 2012 meeting of the Board of Trustees of the James Kennedy Public Library, the Board talked about library funding and made a change so this seems like a good time to talk about these questions.
In Iowa, libraries are primarily funded by property taxes. City libraries are funded by the taxes paid by city property owners. For the James Kennedy Public Library, that means that our primary customers are the citizens of Dyersville. Residents of the cities of Luxemburg, New Vienna, Graf, and Sageville are also full members because their cities contract for service through an agreement with the Public Libraries of Dubuque County Agency. These users are able to access all library services at no cost – because they have already paid for it.
The James Kennedy Public Library also serves many residents from rural areas and towns in Dubuque and Delaware Counties. We provide a more limited service to these individuals because we don’t receive any direct funding; instead their use is funded by Open Access, a state funded program that provides reimbursement to libraries for checking out physical materials to individuals who they are not funded to serve. The library is reimbursed a small amount from the State Library for each item that is checked out. The JKPL receives no funding from the County Supervisors or from other cities to provide library service.
Because the cost to provide service is much more than the amount that is reimbursed through Open Access, several years ago the Library Board approved some fees and limits on service for those who are not paying directly for that service. Open Access patrons must pay $1.00 per half hour to use the library computers, $1.00 per item to place a hold or reserve an item, and are not eligible for Interlibrary Loan services. Due to a change in the consortia license, as of July 1, Open Access patrons are also not eligible to use the JKPL as their source for downloadable audiobooks or eBooks. These services should be available at no charge at the patron’s “home” library – the library that is receiving funding to support their use.
Because we recognize that some people may prefer to use the JKPL for all of their library needs, the Board also provided an option to purchase a full-service membership where patrons would be eligible for all of the services offered by the JKPL. Full-service memberships are available to all Open Access patrons as well as those who live outside of the State of Iowa who wish to check materials out of the James Kennedy Public Library.
The cost, as of July 1, 2012, to purchase a full-service membership is $36.00 for an individual or $72.00 for a family. This cost is prorated (at $3.00 and $6.00 per month respectively) for the library’s fiscal year which runs from July 1 to June 30.
People often think of libraries as being free. This isn’t true. It costs money to purchase materials, pay staff, heat and cool buildings, provide computers, pay for internet service, etc. Libraries are free because they are a public good – supported by the taxes. It is only reasonable that those not paying through taxes have limited services or be asked to pay directly for services through fees or memberships.