Friday, Jan. 22, 2010 | 6 a.m.
With the economic downturn in full swing, consumers everywhere are looking for free services. You don’t have to tell that to Henderson Library District Executive Director Tom Fay.
With circulation increases of nearly 45 percent in 2009, largely attributable to the opening of the district’s Green Valley Library location at Sunset Road and Green Valley Parkway, Fay’s 132-person staff is scrambling to meet the community’s expanding needs.
Due to budget constraints, Fay hasn’t been able to hire new employees for about three years. His annual budget is down to $8.2 million from $9.2 million a year ago. Now more than ever the library district relies on its annual 15,000 volunteer hours to help fill staff gaps.
“Library systems are never overfunded,” Fay said. “But with this situation, we probably won’t see things turning around for another three to five years.”
Fay isn’t a doom and gloomer. He’s just being realistic about the library district’s primary funding source – Henderson property taxes, which have taken a hit as a result of dropping property values. In addition, the library district leader points out that the legislature-imposed 3 percent annual cap on property tax increases will also hamper the library district’s ability to increase its budget once values start increasing again.
“There’s no cap on how far you can fall,” Fay noted. “But we’re only allowed to grow so much.”
Despite these harsh realities, Fay and his team continue to deliver new locations. In March 2009, the library district opened its first mall location, a 1,200-square-foot site at The Galleria at Sunset. The branch has free wi-fi service and is what Fay refers to as a “retail-oriented” product with numerous displays for many of its 2,000 items. Worth Group was the contractor for the site. The builder donated its services, and a deeply discounted rent rate will allow the library district to operate there for many years to come.
The aforementioned Green Valley Library, which was taken over from the Clark County Library District, re-opened in May 2009, after being closed for a few months. The $285,000 renovation project was completed by 1 Development Corp., whose estimate came in considerably lower than the initial $600,000 to $800,000 projections, Fay said. RAFI, who provided design consultation on original construction some 20 years ago, was the architect for the remodel. Fay said the site needed walls moved and an overall “opening up” of the space to implement more of a retail look and feel.
Opening earlier this month is what Fay refers to as a “hybrid” location at the city’s Heritage Park Senior Facility. The site has 800 items with self-serve kiosks, free wireless Internet and six computer stations. It is the first collaboration between the library district and the Henderson Parks and Recreation Department.
“There’s a really good synergy working with parks and rec, and we’re excited about what the hybrid prototype could bring for the future,” Fay added.
In June 2010, The Gibson Library, currently found on the corner of Water Street and Basic Road, will open at the northwest corner of Lake Mead Parkway and Water Street. The new 20,000-square-foot building is double the size of the existing Gibson site, which the district sold back to the city two years ago. Construction costs have come in at $2.6 million, nearly half the original $4.7 million estimate. The site is partly funded by a $2.1 million medium-term loan the district received a few years ago, Fay said. R&O Construction is the contractor, while RSJ Architecture provided design services.