New library won’t require ongoing philanthropic support, mayor says – Omaha, Nebraska

Omaha, Nebraska 2021-12-02 19:55:28 –

Omaha, Nebraska (FLATWATER FREE PRESS) — The city’s main library is different. The structure of library system operations and financing remains the same, even if it expands to 13 branches.

The proportion of libraries in the city’s budget is lower than in the previous year. Still, Mayor Jean Stozart said he was confident that the city would operate a multi-million dollar new facility and potentially be paid at private expense, without relying on charitable funding.

Last week, Stozart announced that the main W. Dale Clark Library would move to a small location in 1401 Jones. The new main library is expected to be between 72nd and 90th Avenues.

The Library Board has approved partnerships with stakeholders, including Heritage Services, a non-profit organization responsible for planning, financing and developing a range of local civil capital projects.

Some of the previous heritage projects are managed by the quasi-government Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority.No one talked to Flatwater Free Press Supported similar arrangements for the new facility.

Rachel Jacobson, president of Heritage Services, said the organization is interested in building development and donations to the city.

“Historically, libraries have been funded primarily by taxpayers,” Jacobson said. “We haven’t suggested that change at all, but obviously we haven’t been able to make the kind of investment needed to reach the next level.”

Libraries’ share of the city’s operating costs fell below 2% in 2019. This is the fourth time in the last 25 years and the second time in the last five years.

This does not include 2020, when COVID-19 forced the library to shut down, setting a record low for that percentage.

“Up and down a tenth percent of the city’s budget makes a big difference in the library system,” said Stuart Chittenden, a member of the Library Commission from 2008 to 2014.
Gary Wasdin, Managing Director of the Library System from 2009 to 2015, said funding has long been a daunting task.

“No one in Omaha’s history has done so much for the library,” Wasdin said. “For almost all mayors, the best you can say is that they didn’t cut their budget.”

Stothert said the budgeting process is about prioritization.

Her top priority is public security.

“We needed more than 100 police officers, so we added more than 100 police officers,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean that public works, plans, laws and libraries aren’t important. It’s important, but you have a finite income.”

She points out that the library budget has been increasing regularly since she was in office, calling it “appropriate funding.”

Stothert said she usually meets the funding level required by the department head.

Librarian Laura Marlane confirmed that the mayor funded the necessary services identified by the library administrator.

Since 2012, the library budget has increased by 41.3% to $ 17.7 million in 2022.

At the same time, the police budget increased by 43.9%. The firefighting budget is 81.7%.

Federation of 2019 Research Looking at library funding per capita, Omaha is $ 29.72, below the state average of $ 38.61 and the national average of $ 41.90.

Omaha ranks third among the 15 municipal library systems in Nebraska and neighboring states for equivalent funding and management schemes with a population of over 50,000.

Only the municipal libraries in Aurora, Colorado and Wichita, Kansas had low per capita spending.

Former City Finance Officer Carol Ebdon, now a professor at the UNO School of Government and a board member of the Omaha Public Library, could further lower the city’s budget priority due to the potential for private funding. Said.

She, along with co-authors study “Library, a sector of the city or county, may find that as private donations increase, elected officials are more likely to transfer local tax funds from the library to other important services such as public security. I’m guessing.

Stothert said it wasn’t happening.

“The city considers funding public libraries a priority and we never avoid spending on public libraries,” she said. “We do not rely on charitable funding to fund the library.”

“As long as I am the mayor, I am confident there [will be] There is no private expense to operate the Omaha Public Library, “she said.

Heritage Jacobson said it was still early. However, the plan requires ongoing city-led efforts to properly maintain the new head office.

“Hopefully you do a great project and raise a lot of money for it, and the charitable community hopefully continues through the library foundation, but you also need to increase the city’s funding. There is, “she said.

For decades, the Omaha Public Library Foundation has raised charitable funds for special library projects such as book purchases and summer reading programs.

Wendy Townley, Managing Director of the Foundation, said he would grow to support whatever new development needed.

The Foundation raises about $ 500,000 annually.

“For that particular library need, we will need to expand our foundation based on the needs of the thirteenth library added to the system,” she said.

She said the Foundation Board and Heritage leadership discussed potential partnerships. This includes the merger of Community Information Trust, a non-profit organization responsible for operating the private digital library DoSpace.

“If a building project is approved in a new library and Heritage Services plays an important leading role in it, we are fully committed to working with the city and all the entities that are stepping into that role. I’m looking forward to it, “said Townley.

Former library director Wasdin said the Foundation’s contributions covered only a small portion of library spending. Calling the library “mainly underfunded,” he was a supporter of public-private partnerships in the past.

He was an early advocate of DoSpace and Heritage was involved in the project.

But he also said that the library is a basic public service, so it is quite different from other heritage projects.

“Private money always comes with a string. That’s a problem. [the library] Decide if it will be accepted, “Wasdin said.

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