Library Funding Call to Action

Once again this year, the City finds itself faced with a budget shortfall going into the next fiscal year, starting October 1, 2012.   The bad news was that the shortfall for the City of St, Petersburg for FY13 was originally estimated to be about $15 million; the good news just received recently is that the estimate has been revised downward, based on information from the county Property Appraiser, to a shortfall of approximately $13.5 million.

In response to the impending FY13 budget shortfall, the City, as in years past, has requested that each department prepare a budget reduction package for FY13 based on a possible reduction in each department’s overall budget.  For the St. Petersburg Public Library System (SPPLS), the budget reduction figure that we have been asked to work with is approximately $386,215, or 6.5-7% of the library’s overall budget.  In reviewing this possible reduction, it appears that the budget reduction options for the library system could include all or some combination, of the following:

  • Reduce personnel budget = reduction in vacant staff positions;
  • Reduce the collection budget = reduction in quantity/type of items/materials ordered;
  • Reduce subscription budget = reduction in quantity/type of print subscriptions and electronic databases ordered. 

Coupled with the possibility of the above reductions, it is also important to note that due to the continued decline in revenues, the Pinellas Public Library Cooperative (PPLC) is also receiving less funding.  This could ultimately result in the necessity for individual libraries (SPPLS included) to be charged-back for shared services (automated system, materials delivery) that are currently being provided, via state aid funding and other revenue, through the Cooperative.

As librarians and Friends of Libraries, we know (and see continued evidence) that vibrant, diverse, appropriately staffed, well-equipped libraries are critical to a flourishing, well-informed, educated and engaged community. 

Listed below are just a few of the things we believe are important for our City stakeholders and the public to understand about the value provided by the St. Petersburg Public Library System and the role it plays in helping transform the lives of the residents in our community:

§  Our Libraries Are Where Parents Learn to Be Their Child’s First Teacher – Our library provides parents and caregivers with picture books so that they can read to their young children.  It conducts infant, toddler, and pre-school programs for parents, caregivers and youngsters where parents can learn to be their child’s first teacher, while skilled librarians assist these youngest library patrons by providing pre-emergent and emergent literacy experiences.  Exposing children to books makes a huge difference in their success in school.  Check out this Science Daily article “Books in Home as Important as Parents’ Education in Determining Children’s Education Level.”

§  Help for Job Searchers – One of the biggest challenges facing our community, the state and our nation is getting folks back to work, and our library, like libraries across the country, is at the forefront of that effort. We play a big role in continuously helping job searchers research job opportunities, prepare resumes, submit applications online and brush up on or learn new job skills.  Without adequate funding that provides skilled staff and appropriate, up-to-date equipment, SPPLS is unable to meet the increased demand for these services.  

§  Support for E-Government Services – Our library has embraced the role of helping our community obtain government services over the Internet.  Increasingly, agencies require applicants to do business with them over the web.  State agencies are claiming significant budget savings by sending their clients to us.  Without adequate funding, these vital library services must be significantly reduced.  As state aid funding to public libraries is reduced, funding for SPPLS to adequately provide these E-Government services is shifted to our City.  This is tough, since our City like so many others, is facing serious shortfalls of its own when the community’s demands for these services continue to rise.

§  SPPLS helps our residents learn 21st Century Technology, Information, & Communication Skills – In order to be successful in our information-based economy, our residents need to know how to use technology, find reliable information, and communicate effectively. SPPLS plays a vital role in helping members of our community learn these skills through formal classes, informal interaction and the information in the materials the library provides.  As budgets are reduced, resulting in a reduction in personnel, materials and equipment, SPPLS’ capacity to provide these essential services becomes increasingly limited.

To put some of the information above in perspective, here are a few FY10/11 statistics for the seven branches of SPPLS:

Expenditures per capita:              $24.78 per capita (third from the bottom of the 14 member PPLC libraries)

No. of professional staff:              20.0 FTE

No. of support staff:                     66.5 FTE

Reference questions answered:      455,938

No. of library programs:                    2,032

No. of program attendees:                60,694

Total circulation:                          1,581,182 

Total internet uses:                          384,482

No. library visits:                          1,440,099

Your efforts in helping stakeholders and others understand that our library is at the heart of our community and provides valuable services for residents of all ages, incomes, and ethnic backgrounds are truly invaluable! Through your efforts, and those of our other Friends, we can ensure that now and in the future our library remains a place in our community:

  • where resident of all ages and incomes can visit and enjoy spending their time;
  • where our residents go to hear interesting speakers, attend a variety of programs, discuss new ideas, books, travel and a broad range of topics;
  • where comprehensive databases are available free of charge;
  • where you get help applying for a job;
  • where you stop by and take home a book, CD, DVD or playaway;
  • where you access/download ebooks, make copies and utilize meeting room spaces;
  • where life-long learners pursue their interests and passion;
  • where toddlers and pre-schoolers learn to read and prepare for success in school;
  • where children and parents actively engage in children’s learning;
  • where teens grow and thrive in a safe place to learn, socialize and have fun;
  • where residents get essential government services otherwise unavailable to them;
  • where residents of all ages use technology and join in the technological revolution that changes all of our lives;
  • where residents connect with and participate in their communities.

….and it is also a place:

  • that’s “owned” by everyone in the community;
  • that can be counted on, day after day, to draw people and to contribute to the vibrancy and health of the City of St. Petersburg!

Please note: FY13’s budget process is very much a work in progress.  Last Thursday, City Council held a budget workshop to review and discuss possible recurring revenue options, one of which is a mileage increase. Your support and feedback regarding City Councils’and the Mayor’s consideration of new, recurring revenue options such as a mileage increase in order to maintain vital City services, including library services, is critical for them to hear! 

Thank you for attending the upcoming public events, thank you for your advocacy and feedback to our stakeholders and thank you for helping to ensure that our public library system remains a vital and vibrant part of our community!

Best regards,


Laurel Gustafson

Laurel Gustafson, Library Director
St. Petersburg Public Library System
280 Fifth Street No.
St. Petersburg, FL 33701


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