Submitted September 12, 2011
Phillip Saxton, Board Chair
Gwinnett County Public Library
Increase Non-Tax Revenue Plan
Considering that the Gwinnett County Public Library has responded to our slowing economy by implementing strategies to reduce our expenses by over 15%, and that we have reduced our number of employees by over 35 persons, and that we have absorbed the opening of a 15th branch without increasing operating funds, and that we have redefined 40 non-classified positions and that we have increased the use of volunteers to 320, utilizing over 24,000 hours, and that we have reduced our materials budget by 7% from FY2011 to FY2012, and that we continue to creatively use technology, including the introduction of ebooks, there is very little else we can do short of reducing hours of service to save additional funds. This is why we have informed the community and the Board of Commissioners that we may have to reduce our service hours to 40 hours per week. Just 2 years ago, our service level was 71 hours per week.
It is also clear that closing libraries in some communities in favor of other communities is discriminatory. Or, reducing hours in some communities in favor of other communities is unfair. Several years ago we dealt with that proposal and the result was not to close or redefine libraries, but the board decided to deal with all libraries equally.
Our other serious consideration is that the demand for Gwinnett County Public Library service is increasing. Even with our current 53 hours of operation today, our demand has increased over 9% and there is no question that if we could be open 71 hours a week that demand may increase over 30%. Like other library systems around the country, during times of slow economic growth and recessions, many more people use libraries for many reasons, including finding jobs, researching new careers, utilizing our free Internet services, doing homework, business research to name just some of the reasons we had over 3.4 million visits during the last year.
Last year, our budget was cut by a whopping 15% or 2.8 million dollars. We were able to absorb some of this loss of revenue with our fund balance, but clearly this is only a stop gap measure.
The way our Library Board has to address the problem is to do all that we can to provide the best possible service to our over 325,000 card holders and countless other users who depend upon us to find ways of funding our services with non-tax revenue. We know that the vast majority of our library users and citizens, who are paying just $47 per year for library services based on the County’s on-line calculator for a home assessed at $200,000, do not want our budgets cut nor services reduced. These users would not want their contribution of $47 cut so they could save a few dollars, nor would they want to use this small amount to fund other parts of government. Why? Because we only represent slightly more than 1% of the county budget and the library budget is a needed safety net for hundreds of thousands of our citizens.
This board cannot and should not turn our back on our citizens at a time when they need us most. Therefore, we are adopting a plan to increase non-tax revenue that will significantly help us in the short term, over the next few years, but also help us
in the long term of never having to put our library system in a position to provide less service when our citizens need us most.
Our non-tax revenue plan rests on 6 primary ideas whose collective goal is to raise $4 million to help cover our short term needs, and $25 million to establish an endowment foundation to help take care of our long term needs.
There are six pillars to this plan.
Pillar #1. The users of our libraries love the experience, help and assistance the Gwinnett County Public Library system provides. They recognize how much money we save each family that uses our service and it is not unlikely that the value of our service saves many families hundreds if not thousands of dollars. For example, my family averages $150 per month in savings. If a family used just one of all of our services, including reading one book, one DVD, one hour of Internet use, etc., the savings would amount to $250 per month. A family with one small child who uses the library weekly would save $170 per month. And, of course, there are many services we supply that are priceless - helping someone get a job, helping with homework or writing a paper, helping a small business owner do market research. You cannot even put a value on these services.
Accordingly, we will launch our ‘We Love Our Library’ donation program. Donate $1 per week for as many weeks as you can. Of course some can donate more and some less, but it is important for GCPL to let our library users know that tax dollars have been reduced and that because we are trying to continue to provide service to our users, they can help by making a donation.
There will be an on-going donation campaign launched that will bring the needs of the library to hundreds of thousands of users. People love our libraries and this is an opportunity for them to help keep our libraries operating and preserve services for hundreds of thousands of citizens who depend on our libraries.
Today on average, we collect $250 per day at each library including fines and fees. The average library is visited over 900 times per day and even if only 25% of our visitors donate just $1 or $2, we will be able to collect an additional $1 million per year.
The important thing we have to accomplish is to educate the public on our needs and to remind them that their support is appreciated. This change amounts to an aggressive creative campaign utilizing posters, printed materials, accepting donations on-line, reminding people of our needs at all programs we support. The ‘We Love Our Library’ campaign can result in a more informed citizenry and great pride.
Pillar #2. Advertising pays for information. If you look at the driving revenue generator of the Internet, it is not eCommerce, but rather advertising. Indeed those that tout the incorrect idea that the Internet can replace libraries, as though the utilization of a browser solves all information problems and takes care of all information needs, are depending upon advertising revenue to pay for Internet access to information.
The library is in the information business. We also can be an advertising vehicle for business especially small businesses. Advertising on the Internet can be expensive when you consider how much you have to pay to get one (1) customer. Advertising at our libraries can be much more efficient and much more cost effective. We can help businesses direct their advertising dollars directly to the consumer they are interested in attracting. We have 3.4 million visitors to our libraries each year and another 5.7 million visits to our Internet site. The significant difference with our library users is that we can reach the customers that businesses want and deliver their advertising message.
During these tough economic times the small businesses in Gwinnett County really need help in marketing and advertising. Our advantage is that we can deliver small business marketing and advertising messages to those customers who are passing their businesses while going to and from the library. Over ½ of retail sales in Gwinnett County is done within a 2 mile radius of one of our 15 libraries. A business may select the library branch they want to advertise in giving them the opportunity to target their advertising dollars specifically to those customers they are trying to attract.
Our goal is to generate $1.2 million in advertising dollars. This can be realized by only 5 businesses per week advertising with us at all 15 library branches.
Pillar #3. Materials sponsorship is a plan targeted to those individuals in engineering, health care, physicians, business, dentist and lawyers. We have two goals with these programs. The first is to provide information and education to students and citizens.
Our goal in Pillar #3 is to generate $250,000 in materials purchases to support these respective areas. We will partner with individuals in these professions to conduct seminars, providing the individuals who will instruct our interested library users in these professions. The goal is to teach, educate and generate interest in students and citizens who want to pursue these professions, leading them to gain an education that will lead to good paying jobs. This will also give our Gwinnett County professionals an opportunity to give back to the community and to promote their individual business and practice.
Pillar #4. Fundraising sponsorship is a program where a business will donate a certain percentage of their sales to GCPL in return for exposure to their business. This program can be used in combination with the advertising program.
The idea is for a business to donate some percentage of sales to the library during the week(s) of sponsorship. It is difficult to forecast how much money this program will generate, but we can confidently say that the minimum amount that a business must commit to is $100 per week.
Pillar #5. Internet sponsorships and affiliate links. We already have affiliate links with Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and Better World books. If you go to any of these websites from our GCPL site and purchase something, we get some small portion of that sale. Without even the public knowing about these affiliate links, we have already generated $1,500. How much this will generate during the course of a year while doing public relations in letting the people know of these links is difficult to quantify. Our plan is to increase the number of companies we have affiliate links with.
Pillar #6. Endowment. This is the long term pillar in our plan. The goal of the endowment is to raise $25 million in principal over the next 15 years. The principal donations will never be spent, assuring people who donate to our endowment that their contribution will go on into perpetuity. We will seek people who will make a cash donation, donation of property and life insurance. Only the interest will be used to help GCPL in future times of reduced tax-revenue contribution to our operation expense.
Our goal is to have 1,500 people of accomplishment serve on the GCPL endowment organization, not only providing us with financial security but also serving as a strong citizen advocate organization dedicated to the success of Gwinnett County.
Our message to the leaders of our county, our congressional leaders and to our Governor is to work with us in achieving our goal of generating non-tax revenue. We understand that there will be difficult times, like we are currently experiencing, like those that we have experienced in the past, as well as those that we will experience in the future. This board in the year 2011 and 2012 will dedicate itself to establishing the above mentioned financial pillars. We ask Gwinnett County Commissioners to help us by supporting our plan and to give us time to get this plan in place.
Accordingly, I ask for the GCPL Board to approve this plan and to support these efforts.
Board approval is requested for the Increase Non-Tax Revenue Plan which includes 6 Pillars/Programs.