Crystal Lake Public Library Circulation Down Precipitously in Last Nine Years

From Lakewood resident Steve Wilson:

Crystal Lake Library Annual Statistical Report

Crystal Lake Library recently mailed its “Annual Report” to all the families in Crystal.

It has lots of pictures and graphics showing statistics on usage for the fiscal year that ended April 30, 2018.

What’s missing is a little historical perspective, so below are statistics from the Library’s Annual Statistical Report plus comparative data on taxes from a couple of nearby library districts.

The number of patrons actually using the library building peaked eight years ago and has fallen every year since then, by 32% in total, including a decline of 3.6% in fiscal 2018.

Circulation peaked in fiscal 2011 and has been in constant decline for five straight years, down 34% in total, including a 6.6% decline in fiscal 2018.

The library’s computers are used only about 20% of the total hours that they’re available and WiFi usage is down 38% in just the last three years.

And “eCirculation”, including eBooks and audio books, constitutes only 8% of total circulation.

The library also circulates DVDs.

In fact, in fiscal 2018, the Library circulated 172,837 “adult print items” (also known as “books”) and 146,121 adult DVDs, almost a one-to-one ratio.

Our children seem to be better readers than our adults.

In fiscal 2018, they took out 194,532 books and only borrowed 54,405 DVDs.

If you divide the Library’s total budget by the amount of items circulated, you come up with a cost to the taxpayers of almost $6.00 per item circulated.

RedBox, conveniently located at two locations in Crystal Lake, lends recent movie hits for $1.75.

The Library also circulated over 19,000 video games in fiscal 2018.

I can understand the public purpose in lending Reader Rabbit, but why do they have seven copies of the ultra-violent video game Grand Theft Auto?

In fiscal 2018, DVDs and video games together accounted for 32% of total circulation.

Still, the Library is losing ground even in this category.

The total number of DVDs and video games circulated is down in each of the last five years and down 40% from the peak.

The Library also offers meeting rooms, not only for their own programs but also for outside groups.

The Ames Meeting Room was in use about 35% of the hours it was available in fiscal 2018.

The Storytime room, used for children’s programs, was in use about 17% of the hours it was available last year versus 23% two years earlier and 29% five years ago.

The “Annual Report” shows the property taxes for Crystal Lake Library.

How does the cost of our library compare with other area libraries?

Below is a table showing the property taxes for it and two other area libraries, the number of families they serve, and property tax burden per family.

Property taxes for the Crystal Lake Library [only Crystal Lake residents pay the Library tax] are 1.7 times the cost to residents of the Cary Library District, and more than twice what residents of Woodstock pay.

You might be interested to know that the Crystal Lake Library used some of your property taxes to buy real estate all around the Library for their planned expansion, the one the voters turned down.

Land purchased by the Crystal Lake Library for expansion purposes at the corner of West Crystal Lake and McHenry Avenues north of the current Library.

The average price paid was twice what the assessor said the properties were worth and twice, per square foot, what other properties in the area were selling for.

The “Annual Report” doesn’t mention what the Library plans to do with these properties.


Crystal Lake Public Library Circulation Down Precipitously in Last Nine Years — 38 Comments

  1. Of course it’s down.

    They need for them has dwindled since the internet.

  2. Library districts and bike paths…..charged to everyone, used by almost no one…..

  3. But employee salaries kept increasing the entire time!

    Illinois library employees have the second highest cost per capita in the U.S. and the third most library employees per resident in the country.

    Add that to what Steve has posted and take into consideration that many library employees receive ‘fat’ Constitutionally protected pensions – maybe you will pay a little more attention to the cost of libraries.
    DC is included as the 51st State

  4. of greatest concern to me is the failure to act by the library board and the city council.

    When the library fails to tell the whole story and the library board does nothing and the city council does nothing, then they are condoning this unethical Behavior.

  5. How absurd for a library, any library, to use taxpayer money for DVD movies and videogames. Most intelligent people would agree that these serve next to no purpose in learning.

    Following are some mission statements from libraries in the U.S. which advance learning:

    Chicago Public Library: “Read, Learn, Discover!”
    “We welcome and support all people in their enjoyment of reading and pursuit of lifelong learning. Working together we strive to provide equal access to information, ideas and knowledge through books, programs and other resources. We believe in the freedom to read, to learn, to discover.”

    Free Library of Philadelphia, PA
    “Advance literacy, guide learning and inspire curiosity”

    Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, PA
    “To engage our community in literacy and learning”

    Grand Rapids, MI Public Library
    “Connecting people to the transforming power of knowledge”

    Pima County, AZ Public Library
    “Our Vision: Our Vision is an educated, connected community of readers, learners, doers, and dreamers. Our Mission: We transform lives by educating, inspiring, and connecting people.”

    Pioneer Library System of Oklahoma
    “Connecting you to the joy of reading and to information for lifelong learning”

    Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library of Kansas
    “Sparking curiosity and connecting our community through literacy and learning”

  6. I attended CL grade school in the 50s, at now Hussman, across the street from the CL Library.

    I used the library several times in connection with school assignments back then, since then I have been in the CL Library, I believe on 2 occasions, both many years ago and only to pick up IRS tax forms which were then available at the Library.

    Now, of course, those IRS forms are available on the internet.

    There is no reason in the world that I would ever need to visit the CL Public Library.

  7. The Central Committee on Sensible Spending will review and recommend they begin offering safety videos, on the hazards of parents giving kids beer at skate parks and Bowel Control Workshops for seniors.

  8. Ain’t Crystal Lake Library the home of a lame ‘Book Club’ that finally disbanded bc nobody bothered to read the featured book?

  9. Its a very simple formula.

    The public library customer (families) demand certain products and services.

    When we were kids (mid 60s) the public library services included adult and children print books, music (albums) you could listen to on site or checkout, periodicals, film strips (remember those), reference materials, copier services, and of course the option to hold meetings and gatherings at the library. And some others I may have missed.

    Today’s customer (families) demand movies, games, ebooks, print books, audio books, internet access, makerspace (this is good for kids look it up), legos (another good thing to encourage building and creativity), even he move from Dewey to Genre classification, toys, streaming services, and so on and so on.

    The public library does not want to become the next Sears, they want to remain relevant to their customers.

    I would hope each generation would appreciate the value of a public library and what it brings to its citizens.

    There were still 350,000 adult and children book circulations – that is 23 books per house hold.

  10. Right on Steve.

    Way to go on your fight against the library and the Crystal Lake City Council.

    Who uses libraries anyway?

    Steve you are a such an inspiration for all of us who hate public services and libraries.

  11. Right on Steve.

    Who uses libraries anyway?

    Way to go on fighting against public services and Libraries.

    I can’t imagine how much time effort and thought you must put into your battle against The Crystal Lake Library.

    what a great sacrifice and public service you are giving this community.

    I’m sure someday we can raise the money to erect a statue of you dumping gasoline on a pile of books.

    You are a hero to me and several others.

  12. The people who love the library so much should volunteer and run if for free and get their like minded friends to help support it.

    Time to remove this from the taxpayers.

  13. On behalf of this glorious sunshine blog and its illustrious sunshine commenters, I publicly call upon our evil government to stop using my tax dollars for the advancement of literacy and research. Stay tuned…20 days…tic, tock, tic, tock, tic, tock, meeeeeoooooowwwwwwwwwwww…

  14. Lexfire, the people aren’t demanding DVDs,the Library staff will do anything to maintain their jobs and the appointed board is a bunch of advocates for more Library, not watch dogs for the taxpayers.

    Any government service needs to pass a three-part test.

    Test one, is it important? DVDs are not important.

    Test two, is it something that the private enterprise does not do a good job of providing?

    The answer in this case is, of course yes, private enterprise does a fine job.

    Question three, is the price reasonable?

    In our case we are paying twice as much per family as they pay in other nearby towns, and we are paying four times as much as private Enterprise charges for the same service.

  15. There is also the ethical issue of the obligation of the library staff and board to provide all relevant information to the public, not just facts that make themselves look good.

  16. Not using the library is your loss.

    Maybe give ‘her’ a visit and see what your missing.

  17. Actually, DVD movies and video games are anti-learning. Let’s hear from those in control of the Crystal Lake Library District exactly how DVD movies and video games ADVANCE learning and knowledge. If anything, these mediums detract substantially from learning. There is very little in value from DVD movies and video games today that advances society and civilization.

  18. Ken Berens,you have advanced no arguments that favor spending as much as we do on this Library especially when other libraries in the area provide essentially identical services for Less. You also fail to provide any evidence of the public benefit of DVDs of recent movie hits.

  19. Steve Willson, I know you have talked about alternatives to our current library model.

    Could you go through a brief rundown of that again?

    We have to be able to have honest conversations.

    Personally, I don’t think we should start the conversation at “abolish libraries.” I’m not saying you are saying that either, but there certainly is a minority of people who feels that way.

    First, we should figure out how much libraries cost us and determine if they are worth it (possibly with some of the use metrics like this article provided, but considering other things as well). This step also involves us figuring out how much we are willing to pay for the library. So sort of like a cost-benefit analysis, but acknowledging that it won’t be in a strictly fiscal sense (because there are benefits which are hard to quantify in measurable monetary terms).

    Then if we deem that in their current form they are not worth the price, we should figure out some alternative. This is assuming you believe in the need for the function that the library does, which I’m guessing you do.

    What are your thoughts Mr. Willson?

  20. Cal. Why is there a lag between our posting and the actual appearance of our comments on your blog?

  21. Bred, Cal, I’ve often wondered that too. Commenting on the blog never used to be that way.

    Libraries have become places vagrants go to surf porn on the internet. It’s creepy and not safe for our kids.

    If we’re going to fix IL we need to rethink these dinosaurs that cost us way too much in taxes.. Anything I need, I can get on the internet from home.

  22. To an American:

    I believe that the level of government services should be determined rationally based on the principles I stated above. This would require a board that saw their role as advocates for the taxpayers, skeptics rather than cheerleaders.

    in the case of the library, I would probably leave the children’s Department broadly unchanged. I would do away with lending DVDs of recent Blockbuster movie hits. This is something that the private sector handles well at a lower price and there is no obvious public benefit in spending tax dollars on this function.

  23. The Commonwealth requires the education of the people as
    the safeguard of order and liberty.
    Inscribed on the main branch of the Boston Public Library.

    If anyone can explain to me how lending 50 Shades of Gray or even Justice League contributes to public education, I am all ears.

  24. Turn the library into a non profit charity. Have these supporters hold fundraisers and run it without tax funds. Sell the properties they bought to start the venture.
    There is no need for this library or indeed most public libraries to be supported by taxpayers.
    I am sure there would be no shortage of willing volunteers.

  25. Steve Willson, good comments, I pray the Folks Listen.

    Back in the 80’s there was a Trust, at Home State Bank.

    It was the Ames Trust, that Mr. Ames set up before he passed away.

    The “Trust” was designated for a needed Hospital in Crystal Lake . . .Jim Zambon, Trust Officer at Home State Bank and Home State Bank decided the money should go to the Crystal Lake Library, and that is where they put it. This caused some problems:

  26. Ah, so it sounds like most people’s beef on here is with the DVD’s.

    Is there some defense of DVD rentals that the resident progressive commenters want to make?

  27. My beef is with the DVDs, with the cost (twice what Woodstock pays for essentially identical services), and with a board and administration that regularly mislead the public.

  28. True. Libraries are creepy. Who said this sunshine blog wasn’t the ultimate educational experience? Stay tuned…tic, tock, tic, tock, tic, tock, meeeeeoooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwww…

  29. This is the same library District on a campaign to expand!

    Someone with a brain please run for this board and teach the existing board how to read its own reports.

  30. Frank:

    You are correct. And we know from D47 enrollment data that the number of children is declining in Crystal Lake, so there will be fewer elementary students for the Library to serve in future years.

    In short, the evidence is very strong that the trend will continue.

  31. I don’t live in Crystal Lake so can’t run for the Library Board.

    Who is going to step up and run for control so we can shut that place down?

    Keep up the good work Steve.

    Steve Willson is a hero for all who hate books.

    Way to go!

  32. The CL Library Board is appointed by the City Council.

    Its members are not elected.

  33. Steve Wilson.

    Remember when you called me out last year for your Randall road rant?

    Cal called me “anonymous” when I said, “clearly, Randall road needs more work to facilitate expansion in our region”.

  34. Ken, if there is some purpose to your statement, it’s not clear to me.

    First of all I don’t make ranch. My objections to the Randall Road expansion were based on hard numbers showing that the maximum number of cars turning left was 415 per hour while left turn Lanes accommodate 300 cars and yet they were planning to make triple left turn lanes, and hard evidence showing that the other lanes were not exceeding capacity even during rush hour although they were closed at that time. I also objected to the cost because the cost of this particular expansion is a multiple of the average for similar highways in Northern Illinois.

    Now again you’ve asked me to check out the library and if not it’s my loss, but you have not said anything in response to my statement that it is unethical for the board to put out misleading statistics, that is to leave out relevant and important statistics the public should know about.

    Do me a favor and respond specifically to the factual arguments that I have made. Show me facts that contradict the ones that I have presented, show me where my reasoning is wrong.

  35. Bookburner, you are a coward hiding behind a phony name. You just make snarky, sleazy little comments. I don’t often agree with Angel, but at least he has the guts to use his real name, and often his comments are humorous. Yours are just lame.

  36. I would truly like to know why Steve Willson is so involved in bashing the Crystal Lake Public Library when the Village of Lakewood is not even a member of the library.

    One difference that I understand making the Crystal Lake library separate from surrounding libraries is the Crystal Lake Library is a city library and libraries like Algonquin’s are formed from library districts making the funding of the library much different.

    I too live in Lakewood and was surprised to find out after moving here that we were not part of the Crystal Lake Library.

    This is because it is not a district library.

    I happily pay each year to get a library card each year.

    I assume Steve that you also take in your tax bill to the library so you can get a card each year too.

    Perhaps you could investigate how Crystal Lake library could become a district library so it can pull tax funding from a larger area then we could have a library like Algonquin, Wheaton, and other communities which have much larger facilities.

    How often do you use the library Steve, and how can you become more helpful to the improvement of the library rather than a constant complainer?

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