Review: Hartford Library Costly Compared To Those In Other Cities
November 18, 2008
A comparison of the Hartford Public Library's operations to six other library systems has found that it has the largest budget, costs the most per capita and has the second largest staff.
The Hartford city council commissioned the review in July following a difficult budget season that saw the layoff of 40 employees and the closure of two neighborhood branches for several months to help close an $870,000 funding gap.
The review, which compared Hartford to Bridgeport, New Haven, Stamford, Waterbury, Springfield, and Providence, found that Hartford's system costs $68 per capita to run. The other systems' per-capita costs were $28, $33, $63, $19, $28 and $49, respectively.
The review also found that 70 percent of the programs and services provided by Hartford's libraries, including some adult learning, reader and youth services, were also provided by other local organizations.
In his executive summary, the city's chief auditor, H. Patrick Campbell, said his review did not include an evaluation of each library system's programs, and added that evaluating libraries on a strictly cost basis may not give a complete picture because it does not take into consideration specific programs and services provided by different systems.
Campbell concluded that it was not his department's place to recommend ways to help the library deal with expected future funding cuts from the city, but suggested that consideration be given to changing its business model in the areas of infrastructure, programs and services and operating hours.
In a written response to Campbell's report, Chief Librarian Louise Blalock said that the Hartford library system has 127 percent more visits, 470 percent more reference transactions and 145 percent more public computer usage than systems serving a similarly sized population.
Blalock also noted that the review did not compare programs and services offered by the library to those offered by other organizations, and didn't note that the library's free programs are available on weekends and during school vacation. She also said that a homework assistance program offered by Hartford public schools is a dedicated program in six of 32 city schools, while the library system, which serves about 1,200 students a day, offers homework assistance on late afternoons, evenings, weekends and during vacation at all its sites.
Blalock also wrote that the review didn't address the effect future funding limitations would have on the city and residents in terms of unmet service needs.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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