To set this up, here’s Lakewood’s Steve Willson’s observations concerning the deminishing patronage of the Crystal Lake Public Library:
Orginally, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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A Library Board Member’s Rebuttal
Over 20-year Library Board member Bill Weller wrote a rebuttal letter to the Northwest Herald calling Willson’s arguments “old complaints.”
“Do his figures account for the library’s online databases, subscriptions, computers, internet access, story times, programs, home delivery to shut-ins and senior residences, classes and lectures on countless topics, a space to gather with others to practice a craft, share an interest or hobby, watch and discuss a movie? A staff ready to offer professional help for all of those activities? The library is a community center. During the recent power outages, the building was filled with people staying warm and charging their devices. Need a notary or want to apply for a passport? Start at your library.”
He asserted, “Every decision was made first with concern for taxpayer dollars…”