I would like for you to share this with those who will not be able to be at the city council meeting this month.
My name is Crystal Spybuck, the librarian of our library. Dear Ladies and Gentlemen of our City Council, I stand before you here along with other library supporters to ask you to reconsider your funding cut for our Blanco Library.
Some people think that libraries have become antiquated, that they are some place that keeps old books that no one reads anymore, a place that people visit for nostalgia like museums, and that libraries are become something we will one day only read about in history books. These people are wrong; we are a living, breathing, up-to-date entity. If you have ever spent one whole day at our Blanco Library, you can see the ebb and flow of people; families, seniors, children, and visitors. Every day we have about 100 people coming into our library. During an average summer week, we have at least 650 visitors to our library. Now, if you are thinking that 650 people is not an impressive number, listen to this: we have over 5,400 patrons who belong to our library, nearly 2,200 of those have been active since 2009. Of those 2,200, around 2,000 are from Blanco County alone and 200 of them are from outside our county. Of those 200 patrons, some of those are regular visitors from other parts of Texas as well as snowbirds from the northern states. These are 5,400 people who use our library, who buy gas here, eat here, and shop here.
Our library is such a good library that it is being used as a model rural library by International Visitor Leadership Program. What does this mean? It means that the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State has chosen the Blanco Library out of the hundreds of thousands of rural libraries to represent the United States when they have international librarians visit. Now that is really something big for this town.
Now take a moment to step back and take a look at what it takes to maintain a place that attracts this kind of attention. Our annual budget is $122,000. We get ½ of 1% of the sales taxes collected in just the Southern part of Blanco County, but no tax funds inside the Blanco City limits. We asked the city for $15,000, the amount that was originally contracted with the city, which was dropped to $12,000, and now you want to drop it to $10,000. The fact is that we are only asking for a small percentage of what we need to operate. We operate on a tight budget and we use over 40 volunteers, which we must note is a larger amount than most libraries our size, to save us at least $36,000 a year in salaries. This year, the state of Texas has cut all funding for libraries by 64%. The state cut will affect us in many more ways that we will not be able to fully comprehend until it all plays out over the next two years. There are services that we currently provide now that we may not be able to provide shortly just because of the state cuts, not to mention any other cuts from previously generous supports such as this city itself.
So what are these services? These services include being open 7 days a week during the school year so that children can do homework during the week as well as on the weekends and hard-working adults can come after they are off work. We have computers, free high-speed internet access, and wi-fi for patrons to use when they are not able to have these at home. We have computer classes for adults so they can improve their knowledge skills, look for jobs, and just stay in contact with relatives across the country. We have programs for children to encourage them to read so that they can be knowledgeable and hopefully productive citizens when they grow up and become the future of Blanco. Did you know that the school buses even drop children off at the library after school? Imagine what that saves parents on child care and they know that their children are safe here at our library. We have after school art classes as well as adult art classes. Many regularly scheduled reading groups, a writing group, and other special programs take place here as well. Thanks to state funding we still have access to some databases that adults and children use to do research, but we have lost some databases due to the cuts. Have I mentioned books, audio books, music, and movies yet? The library has about 27,000 library books, audio books, music, and movies for patrons. We work hard to buy ALL of the best sellers for our patrons to read. All of our 1,500 movies, 1,000 audio books, and over 300 music CDs have been donated to us by our loving patrons.
Here is something else of interest for people just in our area; we have over 200 genealogy items and databases available for free for genealogical research. Those 200 genealogy items include rare genealogies of families in Blanco County that there were few copies made and some that exist nowhere else in the world. We are lucky enough to have rare photos of Blanco, rare records of Blanco, and microfiche of past editions of the Blanco County News and the Johnson City Record Courier. We actually have genealogical references that rival bigger city libraries. There is an Oral History Group that interviews and records the history of the City of Blanco. These video records are being designed so that patrons can take them home and view them. The Oral History Group also works with the Pioneer Museum and Historical Commission so they are not a stand-alone organization.
Not only are we about preserving our past, but the Blanco Library is about promoting the future. We have updated our collection to include some of the latest health books and created a health center, along with a donated blood pressure monitoring system donated by HEB. We will have classes on exercising, health checks, and more. We provide free IRS forms for the public since our post office does not. Now that the IRS has tried to do away with sending paper forms to individuals, they have to come to us for them or come to us to access it online. We even have a person who donates her time to help people with their taxes every year.
Even on the technology front, we are notable. Due to how we are the major facility in Blanco that provides free public access to computers and the internet, we are being considered for free replacement of our computers and additional computers, as well as a laptop lab. We are even up for a grant for free e-books for a year. Even if we do not get this grant, we will push forward and try to give e-books to our patrons. Also note we are the only facility with a projector system, large conference room with dark capacity, and willingness to be open for organizations, such as yours, to use it during off hours. We allow many non-profit organizations to use our conference rooms without charge.
To sum this up, we are a community place for people to meet, relax, get business done, and more.
What this all means to you:
If we are cut even another $2,000 by the city, we will have to make cuts and amendments to how we operate now. That means we may have to be closed on Sundays all year round since that will save us around $2,000 in utilities and staffing, and this means that children will not have us as a place to do their homework on that day. We are considering charging out of county patrons (who bring business to our town) as well as start charging annually local patrons for the use of the library. I know that we asked for $15,000 that we originally had contracted with you, but even the $12,000 would be better than $10,000. We take a great deal of pride in providing all that we do for our community and do not wish to fail it in any way. Please do not let us fail them.