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November 27, 2014

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Outlook dire for Henderson Libraries, even with record donation, director says

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Erin Dostal

The Gibson library is one of six locations in the Henderson Libraries system.

A record donation by the Friends of the Henderson Libraries might not be enough to prevent dire moves, possibly even library closures, if budget cuts continue as expected, the libraries’ executive director says.

With the new fiscal year just months away, Tom Fay, Henderson Libraries executive director, is expecting and preparing for the worst. At its peak, the libraries’ budget was once almost $10 million, Fay said. This year it’s $7 million.

“We cannot continue to bear these losses and still run the facilities,” Fay said. “We’re going to have to make additional cuts.”

The libraries, which serve about 150,000 registered users and house close to 600,000 books, depend on property and consolidated taxes to finance operations at six locations.

Fay said the libraries’ tax revenue would probably go down about another 7 percent once final numbers come in this spring.

“It’s very difficult to keep the doors open,” said Fay. “There are staff shortages all the time.”

Currently, about 100 employees and almost 20 volunteers help keep the facilities running. In the past four years the libraries have reduced operating hours — including closing their doors on Sunday — and reduced programming by 20 to 25 percent, Fay said.

Such moves usually would affect circulation severely, Fay said, but that hasn’t happened in Henderson.

“Overall our circulation has only gone down 4 to 5 percent, which is amazing with all the cuts,” Fay said.

In comparison, Las Vegas-Clark County Library District deputy director Robb Morss said his $59 million budget, which funds 25 branches, has decreased by about 9 percent since last year.

Unlike Henderson, the Las Vegas-Clark County library system has lost 96 staff positions over the past few years due to layoffs, buyouts and the elimination of vacant positions, a move Morss said has calmed budget woes.

“We feel hopeful that we made the appropriate cuts so we are stabilized,” Morss said.

However, Morss said the urban branches that were previously open for 72 hours a week have been cut down to 60 hours a week. Libraries in Las Vegas are still open seven days a week.

Henderson Libraries currently depend on the “1 for a Million" campaign, which asks visitors for $1 donations. The campaign will end in April. Officials now expect the campaign will yield only about $100,000, not nearly close to the $1 million Fay said it would take to properly maintain the libraries’ material budget.

The libraries also rely on funds from the Friends of Henderson Libraries, like the Friends’ $27,000 donation delivered Thursday morning. The donation was the result of the annual Library Tree Lane fundraising gala in December.

The money, the most the group has ever raised at one time, is earmarked for materials for teens, books, audio books, e-books and other library uses, said Laura Jane Spina, past president of Friends of Henderson Libraries.

“We used to support events and buy supplies,” Spina said. “Then when state agencies had to take budget cuts, we started raising money for particular line items.”

The group also sells used books once a month at each library and online, which has yielded another $100,000 for the libraries.

The libraries are “an amazing value to our community,” Spina said. “It’s just a shame that we aren’t able to have more funding in place.”

To donate to the Henderson Libraries, go to their website. The libraries also encourage people to donate used books.

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