During a special board meeting, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's Board of Trustees unanimously agreed to move forward with a comprehensive approach to long-term funding that was proposed by an independent Public Private Task Force on Sustainable Funding.
Since mid-December, the board has worked closely with task force members, forming a Joint Committee on Sustainable Funding to evaluate the report's six recommendations. During this time the joint committee solicited questions from board members, reviewed answers and ultimately recommended the board pursue a multi-pronged approach to provide long-term, sustainable funding for the library system.
The Task Force's multi-pronged approach addresses the recommendations and feedback provided by the community in 2010 during the library's community conversation workshops. The two primary strategies and six specific tactics provide a funding solution that is shared by all aspects of the community:
Protect and grow current library funding:
Improve advocacy and increase individual giving by building a culture of library supporters;
Secure annual increases from the Allegheny Regional Asset District (RAD);
Secure increases in corporate contributions; and,
Work with local/state entities to develop tax incentive programs for corporate and individual donors.
Initiate new funding streams:
Provide the citizens of Pittsburgh an opportunity to vote on whether dedicated funding support should be provided to the library; and, launch a library endowment campaign.
Together, these recommendations have the potential to provide Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh with an additional $5 to $7 million annually. Such funding would help to maintain services that are critical to community residents, including afterschool programs for children and teens, free access to computers and the Internet, and a wide variety of books, music and online resources that often cost too much for individuals to purchase.
A sustainable level of funding would also enable the library to continue to focus on progressive and meaningful library service and information access that constantly adapts to ongoing community needs.
As part of the Task Force's research, a benchmarking study of high-performing libraries was conducted by UPMC interns at Scott H. Lammie, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, UPMC Insurance Services, request.
The report, "Sustaining Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh," concludes the library has one of the smallest operating budgets for an urban library and regional library system of its size and stature.
"Virtually all benchmark metrics confirm that Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (CLP) is now chronically under-spending in staff resources, collections and other basic infrastructure support. The range of under-spending is estimated to be in the 10-15 percent range for a library of CLP's size based on various benchmark measures. While other library systems are now facing severe funding cuts, their baseline per capita spending rates remain significantly in excess of CLP's, particularly among the high-performing library systems," the study states.
Each of the Task Force recommendations is being referred to a sub-group or committee of the Library board for planning and implementation. Groups will develop action plans and timelines and report back to the board at its February meeting. Some actions are likely to begin this year, with others taking place throughout the course of the next two years.
"We are confident that this multi-pronged approach creates key building blocks to financial sustainability," says task force member Lynne Squilla. "As a representative of the community, I am keenly aware that everyone wants to – and should – contribute to the successful future of this library system. This plan enables the entire community – from individuals to corporations, government and foundations – to participate in this shared goal."
The final task force report and the library benchmarking research, "Sustaining Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh," are available on the library website, carnegielibrary.org/background.