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City library wants funds for security, technology

BY MICHELLE McCONNAUGHEY | JANUARY 27, 2011 7:10 AM

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Iowa City Public Library officials fear their facility is becoming obsolete.

So they’re asking the city for more money, hoping to continue modernizing the library and making it more secure. But that’s not likely to happen this year.

Since the renovated library opened in June 2007, people have entered the building mllions of times and some things are falling apart from extensive use, said Library Director Susan Craig.

This year’s city budget grants the library a projected budget of more than $5.5 million for 2011, a slight increase over 2010. But the Library Board contends the facility needs more.

“It’s a little disappointing, but we’ll try again,” said Elyse Miller, the administrative coordinator of the library.

The budget covers the library’s need for new carpets, tables, desks, and chairs, library officials said.

The Library Board asked the City Council for an additional $20,000 to pay for expanded security cameras, said Tom Martin, the president of the library’s Board of Trustees.

Miller noted the library’s self-checkout stations pose the main problem in terms of security.

“We don’t have staff members watching them all the time and people are finding ways to take materials at the self-checkouts,” Miller said. “The cameras would really help deter theft.”

City councilors said the library is not a priority.

“This is not a year for doing stuff that doesn’t have to be done,” said Councilor Mike Wright. “The city has a very tight budget this year with the economy. Maybe in past years we would have been able to grant this money, but not this year.”

The Library Board’s temporary solution will be a replacement fund, made of donations and unspent city money. It can be used for unexpected expenses such as broken computers, but officials worried they won’t be able to keep up with repairs, which would add to budget woes in the long run.

“We realize that times are tough right now, but the downside of deferred maintenance is that you just create a bigger and bigger problem by putting it off,” Craig said.

Libraries have been struggling to keep up with the changes in technology, said Alison Ames Galstad, the director of the Coralville Public Library. The libraries in both Coralville and Iowa City have seen increasing attendance and items checked out.

The Coralville library has seen a 32 percent increase in overall visits and a 12.5 percent increase in circulation since 2008, Galstad said.

The Iowa City Public Library has also seen increases in attendance, but its circulation checkouts dropped a little under 1 percent from 2009 to 2010.

And the Iowa City Public Library has the advantage of being able to attract college students.

Though UI freshman Scott Russell said he is a frequent visitor to the city’s library, he is skeptical about the future of libraries.

“I think libraries will eventually be outdated,” he said. “A lot of people would rather go online to get the same information that they could get from going to the library.”


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