April 16, 2014

Kansas: Longer Waits, Less Money for New Books at Wichita Library

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From The Wichita Eagle:

In recent years, the Wichita Public Library’s per-person spending on library materials has been less than half of the amount in Oklahoma City and Topeka and half of the amount spent in Lawrence. Less spending translates to fewer materials and longer wait times, sometimes several weeks longer.

In those other cities’ libraries, for every popular new book copy, about three people are waiting to get it. In Wichita, there are likely to be about seven people waiting, where it used to be about five, said Cynthia Berner Harris, the city’s director of libraries. When she came to work for the library in 1984, it was three people waiting per copy.

“We ask people to bear with us and know that we will get copies to them as fast as we can,” she said.

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In 2008 and 2009, the Wichita library received $763,920 in city funding each year for its materials budget. That dropped to $687,530 in 2010 and stayed at that level in 2011 and this year. It will remain the same next year.

As for state funding, the library received $242,873 for all expenses, not only materials, from a state grant in 2008. By 2012, state aid had fallen to $162,844.

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The good news is the Wichita library has managed to keep spending on materials at a consistent percentage of total library spending, Berner Harris said.

“I think this data tells us that although our overall funding available for materials purchases at our library is less than many of our peers, we have done a much better job than most (in recent years) of minimizing the amount of cuts to our materials budget,” she said in an e-mail.

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Gary Price About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.