2009 saw the Library’s first successful operating levy pass with a 73% for vote—an amazing show of support from the community. The campaign was strongly supported by the community receiving endorsements from newspapers, business organizations, political parties, community organizations, townships, cities, and villages and elected officials including State Senators and Representatives, Mayors and Township Presidents. Through the leadership of campaign chair, Bill Moran, and the group of influential community leaders who agreed to serve as campaign co–chairs of Citizens for Your Library’s Future, the campaign was able to secure key endorsements, raise the nearly $400,000 needed to promote the levy and inspire thousands of volunteers to donate their time to this cause.
The hard work of this dedicated group of volunteers will mean that the Library will receive, starting in 2010, approximately $20 million a year in local tax revenue to replace funding lost from the State. I would like to again thank everyone who donated their time and money to this campaign and also the voters of Hamilton County who overwhelmingly supported the Library.
Record High Usage
While struggling to keep the Library’s doors open at a time when our primary source of funding dropped $8.5 million dollars (18%) in one year, we were also seeing growing demand for Library services with circulation once again reaching an all time high at 16,372,499 an increase of 4.8% over 2008. Demand for reference assistance remained strong with nearly 2 million reference questions asked in 2009. Program attendance was also up with 328,588 attending Library programs in 2009. The number of visits to the Library reached more than 6.1 million. Since 2007, our Library has seen the number of items borrowed increase by 1,415,905, an increase of nearly 10%. The number of cardholders stands at more than 271,000, up 15% since 2008 and database use, the count of searches performed on databases purchased by the Library reached nearly 2 million an increase of almost 20%. Searches of the Library catalog inside the Library jumped 7% to just over 5 million while remote searches reached 32.6 million, an increase of 17.2%.
Increased Book Circulation
One of the most fascinating things about this incredible growth is the unprecedented growth in print circulation. Accounting for nearly all of our circulation increases, print circulation grew by 9.1% in 2009. In 2009 Library customers borrowed 9,476,093 print items up 790,335 when compared to 2008. New initiatives like Featured Book of the Month and expansion of the Summer Reading program to adults, as well as longstanding programs like On the Same Page, our reading blog and promoting new titles through our web page have all contributed to this incredible growth.
Cincinnatians love to read. A recent study, America’s Most Literate Cities, ranked Cincinnati 9th among the 75 largest cities in America. We’re even prouder to note that the study ranked our Library 5th. I feel certain that this love of reading and the strong use of the Library’s print collection are inextricably connected.
Expanded Computer Usage and Training Classes
The economic recession has also been a factor in the continuing demand for Library services. In addition to borrowing more items, Library customers are attending programs to teach computer use and job seeking skills like resume writing and participating in mock interviews. To keep up with this growing need the Main Library’s TechCenter doubled the number of training classes offered each month. In the TechCenter alone computer reservations exceeded 250,000. Library computers systemwide were once again in use every day, all day. The receipt of a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Opportunity Online Hardware Grant will provide much-needed funds to upgrade and purchase additional computer equipment for 17 of our Library branches. The West End Branch was the first to receive equipment from the grant. The remaining 16 branch libraries will have their new equipment installed over the next several months. The $161,852 grant is one of the largest grants the Library has ever received.
In 2009 we received recognition as one of the busiest and best public libraries in the country, ranking among the top 10 in Hennen’s American Public Library Ratings for libraries serving a population of 500,000 or more for the fourth consecutive time.
Customer Service Enhancements
Despite our tight finances in 2009, we continued to implement improvements to better serve the community including a redesigned website to make Library news more prominent and allowing holds on older feature films. We received an additional grant and generous donation to expand our digitization initiative and we continued to work with our youngest residents to be sure Hamilton County children enter Kindergarten ready to read by visiting home based child care providers utilizing funds from a Library Services and Technology Act grant.
With our State funding dropping at a pace completely unanticipated, we had to use capital funds originally intended for On going Maintenance and gift funds received over many, many years just to keep the Library open. These funds have been largely depleted leaving us with little cash to meet our operating needs should State funding experience a similar drop in 2010. We’ve already been told by the Ohio Department of Taxation to expect our State funding to drop by another $2.6 million in 2010. With State funding continuing to drop, it remains vitally important for our Library to continue its good stewardship of funds and to continue to seek efficiencies.
In late 2009, we announced our intention to develop a new strategic plan for the Library. Our most recent plan was developed in 2004 and much has changed since then. Over the next 6-9 months we will be engaging the community in a discussion about Library services as we work to develop this new plan.
In addition we have an ambitious list of projects and initiatives to undertake in 2010. Fifty-five + is a new web site being launched for our customers aged 55 and older. In addition to a web site, we will be developing programs and services to meet the unique needs of this growing segment of the population. We will also be increasing our offerings in digital books. The Playaway pilot was a huge success and we plan to expand the pilot to all locations with a full collection of books. Featured book of the month will be expanding to include titles for teens and children and our technology will be upgraded at many branch libraries thanks to the generous Gates grant funding we received. We want to keep in touch with our community so we will be visiting groups and elected officials across the County to share with them news about the Library and, perhaps more importantly, to seek input on what changes are needed at the Library.
2009 was a landmark year for the Library. With community use and support at record levels we are ready to take on the new challenges 2010 presents. Having solved our most pressing financial problems we will turn our attention to planning for the future and are excited about the many opportunities available to us now.
The Eva Jane Romaine Coombe Director