San Jose can cut the cost of extending library hours with a few simple adjustments to its staffing model, according to a new city audit.
Each of the 22 branches should look at peak use hours to determine their schedules, city auditor Sharon Erickson writes in her report up for review at this week’s City Council meeting. The city should also regionalize management to save time and resources.
Most people tend to use the library on Tuesdays and Saturdays, yet only the Evergreen branch offers regular service on those days using temporary funding. And not since 2010 has the city offered regular Sunday hours, even though that’s a historically busy day for library patronage. The least-busy times are Thursday and Friday mornings, but all branches stay open during those hours.
The audit was in motion before, but the final report comes after the council decided to place a library parcel tax renewal on the June ballot to keep branches open and staffed. The decade-long tax approved by voters in 2004 generated $8 million a year. But it’s set to expire next year. Voters will get to decide whether to extend the assessment, which pulls in a quarter of the city’s library budget.
When the economic downturn forced the city to slash services, libraries were among the hardest hit. Four newly constructed branches remained dark for years until the city came up with temporary funding to open them a few days a week. Collective library hours dipped from 931 to 814 a week.
Unsurprisingly, library usage plummeted. Four years ago, the city recorded 8.1 million visits and 15.4 million check-outs. In 2013, that dropped to 5.8 million visits and 10.7 million items borrowed.
Erickson also notes that the city could save time and money by going cash-free, like D.C. libraries, eliminating time spent on cash counts. And that reassigning some responsibilities and schedules could save $775,000 in annual staff resources.
More from the San Jose City Council agenda for April 15, 2014:
- The council will adjourn for a moment in memory of Steve French, a noted visual artist, scholar and venerable member of the local arts community who died Feb. 4.
- Model ship enthusiasts are asking the city to allow them to fire open-air projectile at each other’s boat. Right now, city code prohibits anyone from firing BB guns, slingshots, rocks, crossbows, darts, pellets, bolts and arrows. But for the Western Warship Combat Club to play war by outfitting their 5- and 6-foot-long boats with low-velocity projectile launchers, they’d need the council to make an exception. The model boaters play with their ships on the Penitencia Creek ponds in north San Jose, according to an older memo submitted by Councilman Kansen Chu, who extolled the group’s “perfect” safety record. Not everyone’s OK with the plan, though. An email sent to San Jose Inside points out that the ponds contain public drinking water and that when these ships sink, they leech lead and battery acid. And apparently, according to neighbors, the club already shoots ball bearing projectile, some of which has dinged up car windows and hit a former member’s hand.
- Opening of the patent and trademark office slated to move in to City Hall got pushed back to summer 2015. And the city will have to foot the $4.7 million bill for the move, basically eating up all revenue from the first five years of rent paid by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
- A developer needs the city’s help securing $64 million in tax-exempt financing to build 334 low-income apartment units.
WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260