Check-out lane at library

If you’re going to double the size of the public library, you had better double the amount of parking, right?

As I circled the parking lot at the public library Monday at 11:30 a.m., I wondered what was going on – all the library’s 110 spaces were taken, and there were several vehicles prowling for parking, the drivers obviously hoping to pounce on the next space that opened up. Several creative motorists had established their own parking spaces along the fringes of the lot.

The library is busy these days. The facility recently celebrated its 1 millionth checked-out item this fiscal year, which ends June 30. That’s a new record for the facility – the addition of DVDs to the collection has boosted those figures. And some credit is due to the lousy economy, which can be thanked for forcing folks to check out books instead of buying them and has added to that record-breaking circulation.

As summer has kicked in and the schools have recessed, the library will remain a busy place. I saw a lot of families waiting patiently in line at the circulation desk, parents and kids holding scores of books to check out.

So it’s a good thing the recently approved bond issue includes plans for adding 120 parking spaces, because they will be needed. Now that the town has decided to end bus service to the library, driving and walking are the only ways to arrive at the front door unless you feel like hopping onto a bicycle.

The added parking and traffic back and forth along Library Drive also will mean that the sooner a stoplight is installed at the intersection of Estes Drive and Library Drive, the better.

Seems like public parking will always be an issue in Chapel Hill, even at the library. You could check it out. And it looks like library planners had better come up with a way to fast-track electronic circulation as soon as possible.
–Don Evans

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10 Comments

  1. Don, you realize that’s more public parking than the Lot $$$$$$$$5 project will have?

  2. Runner

     /  June 16, 2010

    Can the library please create a separate check out kioski in the kid’s section? It would help move things along no matter what side of library you use.

  3. Anon

     /  June 16, 2010

    If you charge out of towners and cut back 40% of the users parking will be plentiful and the check out lines, and waiting lists for books will be shorter..

    here’s hoping someone on the council actually tries charging for service…

  4. Charging for service means a reduction of OC’s $250K/year subsidy to zip.

    You need to get over 4000 out-of-town patrons to pay the $60/$65 per year floated by Council just to break even. Calculate in the overhead of processing those payments, managing those folks and it’s more like 4,500 paying patrons just to get back to even.

    Since a lot of the cost of the Library is “sunk cost” (utilities, operations, etc.) it isn’t clear how much savings will come from drastically reducing the pool of patrons. Calculating the cost savings isn’t as simple as multiplying some cost factor per patron and subtracting that out which makes running a number of scenarios important when calculating the cost basis of each user.

    Of course, reducing the overall patronage comes with some benefits – maybe easing the parking issue – but, again, it’s not quite a linear relationship between taking one out-of-town patron off the roster and freeing up X amount of parking capacity.

    One last note on the Library funding mess. There was a lot of blather about the necessity of moving forward NOW because materials and construction costs are low (little justification or analysis provided as why they wouldn’t be next year given the current economic decline).

    No analysis or discussion of cost overruns.

    Considering that the Town hasn’t brought one construction project in close to budget in the last decade (Aquatics Center was closest – kudos to them) and that the original no-cost then low-cost taxpayer “investment” in Lot $$$5 leapt to over $10+ M in a matter of months, who really thinks that the Library expansion will be any different?

    I expect the transition and construction costs to be higher than projected (not expected – they’re two different beast), which means we’ll have to find even more revenue to cover the project. On top of this all, of course, is finding even more funds to handle the incredible increase in operational costs (again, a point that only Laurin and Matt seemed to be truly concerned with).

    If Lot $5 is the old-guard Council’s white whale, the new Library expansion is turning out to be the current Council’s white elephant.

  5. Anon

     /  June 16, 2010

    @CW

    what people always forget about this discussion is that HALF OF THE COUNTY TAX BASE is Chapel hill..

    so in reality of the 250K that comes in only half of that (125K is actually from out of town).
    If the council collected 125K in fees but saw usage drop of 30% it would be worth it IMHO because the remaining patrons would get better service (e.g. shorter wait lists for books, easier parking and shorter lines.). Most “good” books have wait lists that would be ~30% shorter if the town charged.

  6. Anon, the Library is already spending that $250K. If the subsidy drops $125K but the baked in operational costs stay fairly high someone (that would be us, Chapel Hill taxpayers) has to pick up the slack.

    Orange County has acknowledged, rightfully, that their contribution is not sufficient by any stretch. One thing, though, that seems to get missed in all the railing against the BOCC on this subject is that almost every department and budgetary line item in the County’s budget took a significant whack this year with the exception of that subsidy. In fact, they shuttered the northern rural branch to help make that happen.

    You could, as I did, take that as a sign of good faith.

    That said, the County cannot be expected in the near term to double or triple or quadruple (as some on Council have asked for) that subsidy. The County doesn’t have the funds now, won’t have the funds next year. Lurking behind this all is the projected more than doubling of the operational overhead of the Library AFTER the expansion. That projected budget is about 2 1/2 times the total County Library services outlay. In other words, we could take every cent of the project County services budget along with the current projected allocations made by Chapel Hill’s taxpayers and still come up short by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

  7. Terri Buckner

     /  June 16, 2010

    If 40% of the population of library users live outside of the town, that means 60% are town users, but 100% of town residents are paying for both the town and county portions of this budget. There is no way to increase the county portion of the budget without directly impacting town residents. I continue to be baffled by this whole effort on the part of the town council. If the county were going to increase the allocation to the size requested by the town council, they would do better to invest in a Carrboro branch library.

    I know 1% of the projected cost of the library expansion must be spent on public art, but is that 1% calculated on the total construction budget, including the planning that has already been paid for?

  8. Cam

     /  June 17, 2010

    Will Raymond-a noun, a verb and lot 5………..

  9. Bill

     /  June 18, 2010

    Perhaps, Cam but at least he is not out begging Carrboro’s BOA.

  10. js

     /  June 22, 2010

    I like the system they have at the downtown Columbia SC library for speedy checkouts. You swipe your card, set your books down on a device that scans them, zaps them (so they go past the door theft alarms, I guess) and gives you the option of a paper receipt with the return date on it, should you want it. The entire checkout process takes < 10 seconds. You also have the option of using the human, as well, if lines are your thing.

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