Fiscally happy New Year

Town manager Roger Stancil must have eaten his New Year’s Day Hoppin’ John on behalf of the town this year. When Town Council resumes meetings tonight, council members will vote on whether to accept money from several sources.

The consent agenda asks council to accept $5,000 from OWASA toward Code Red, a service that notifies customers if the water is tainted; $1,000 from the Library Foundation, courtesy of Matt Czajkowski and his family, for the purchase of Kindles to loan out; $9,073 from the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant to upgrade police safety equipment; and $11,962 from the e-NC PEG Grant and matching funds for equipment to produce new video content for TV-18, Chapel Hill’s public TV station.

The item requests $3,000 be given to the Library Gift Fund for the purchase of new material, perhaps some e-books to load on the Kindles, and asks for $93,000 to finish paying for the new parking meter system, renovate a parking lot on Graham Street the town purchased last year and resurface part of Lot 2 over the weekend. But the latter are necessary steps to keep the town Open for Business.
The consent agenda includes a request to allow Stancil to apply for a $500,000 grant to cover the town’s portion of a matching grant to lay artificial turf at Cedar Falls Park. Stancil applied for a $700,000 grant last year, but the state turned him down due to the state’s fiscal woes.

The council also must vote on whether to accept a new agreement with the county so that Orange County residents who live outside of Chapel Hill can continue to use the library for free. The agreement, crafted by Sally Greene, Gene Pease and Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, working with county commissioners, sets the county’s first-year contribution at $342,986, building in gradual increases so that the county’s portion rises to more than $500,000 by the fiscal year ending in June 2015. That increases the county’s portion from about 21 percent of the library operating budget to nearly 30 percent.

So 2012 starts off on the right fiscal foot.
– Nancy Oates

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16 Comments

  1. George C

     /  January 9, 2012

    Nancy,
    I’m sure it will be mentioned tonight during the Town Council meeting but for those who don’t happen to see the meeting I’d like to add a bit of information to your post: the donation to the Library for the Kindle readers by Matt and Jill Czajkowski was made in memory of Matt’s mother Jean who, in her late eighties, was one of the early adapters of this digital technology. Jean died a little over a year ago at age 90. The Kindle readers have been a great success and as of several weeks ago there were twice as many people signed up to check them out as there are readers.

  2. DOM

     /  January 9, 2012

    Such a shame we didn’t supply every man, woman and child who lives in Chapel Hill w/Kindles instead of investing $16M in the library expansion. If we had, we’d still have over $12M left.

  3. Ph. Johnson-Sledge

     /  January 9, 2012

    Dom has the right idea. If I’m not mistaken, it was a struggle to get the Library on board with the plan in the first place. Perhaps they are in the same camp as Penny Rich, who proclaimed just last spring that e-readers are ” just toys for rich kids”.

  4. Nancy Oates

     /  January 9, 2012

    “Just toys for rich kids,” kind of like cars equipped with hands-free cell phones?

  5. Fred Black

     /  January 9, 2012

    Believe it or not, there has been a lot of research done and much written on the future of the printed books and the assumption that everything will go electronic. Libraries with printed books are going to be with us for some time to come. I would encourage you to do a little research before you assume Kindles will meet the public’s needs. Don’t believe the American Library Association, take a look of some of the independent sudies.

    As for the Library not “getting on board with the plan in the first place,” one needs to understand that the majority of public feedback given to the Library was to not divert a lot of money from printed materials to e-books. All of this doesn’t happen in a void. I would encourage those with an interest to apply to be on the Board of Trustees and help shape the future.

  6. DOM

     /  January 9, 2012

    Mr. Black –
    The fact that Amazon, the world’s largest bookseller, now sells more e-books than paper books is a very telling statistic. Especially when you realize that e-books have only been around for a couple of years. And who knows what advances in e-lending/borrowing will appear in the near future? You are correct that printed books will be with us for some time to come, but most experts in the field believe their use and popularity will continue to diminish at a precipitous rate. Therefore, the town’s investment in a very pricey library expansion in this time of great financial stress is, in my opinion, a very poor use of the taxpayers’ money.

    I’m sure that members of the library’s board of trustees would disagree because their perceived importance in the community will increase along with the size of the library. But for those of us who are comfortable moving forward into the 21st century, it’s a huge step backward.

  7. Road Warrior

     /  January 9, 2012

    I am with Fred. The scariest thing about a world without paper books. Once books go all electronic, it will be very easy to simply make works you don’t like disappear.

    I never want to live in a world without paper books.

  8. Terri Buckner

     /  January 9, 2012

    “I never want to live in a world without paper books.” Me either. I love holding books and reading them.

  9. Fred Black

     /  January 9, 2012

    DOM, It might hold water if the building was mostly about holding the book collection. I believe that you know that is not the case, just as you must know that people serving on that board are not about trying to be perceived as important.

  10. I cherish the joy of a serendipitous discovery while walking the stacks – an individual experience missing from the electronic library. The shaped recommendations of Amazon just don’t have the same impact. That said, electronic distribution is here. We can learn from Asheville’s Library system on how to manage that growth.

  11. George C

     /  January 10, 2012

    A recent Wall Street Journal article reported that digital book sales last year were about 10% of total sales. A respectable number that is sure to continue growing. But the article also pointed out that digital book publishers have rapidly learned their lessons from the digital music publishers who preceded them and the costs of many digital books are often nearly that of print books and, in some cases even surpass them.

    Digital book subscriptions by libraries are not without problems. Most digital book subscriptions to libraries only allow a limited number of downloads and then the subscription ‘disappears’ into the digital ether. These subscriptions only allow one download at a time as well. So if you have a popular book that you know will have a high demand you might have to buy at least 5-10 subscriptions. And in the end, when all the subscriptions are gone, what is left for posterity, for folks to find on a casual stroll through the stacks as Will describes?

    Digital books will be an important part of libraries of the future, of our Library of the Future. But they will not totally replace written works, they will go hand in hand to enhance the lives of all the various ages and cultures of our community.

  12. DOM

     /  January 10, 2012

    I have never said I like e-books, just that they are a fact of life. Ignoring their importance is like advocating for horse carriages in an automobile world.

  13. Fred Black

     /  January 10, 2012

    DOM – it’s obvious that the CHPL is not even close to ignoring them. They are very popular with a segment of users. Your claim that the addition is unneeded BECAUSE of e-books is what’s at issue; that assumption is just plain false. I think you know that but …

  14. DOM

     /  January 10, 2012

    “Your claim that the addition is unneeded BECAUSE of e-books is what’s at issue; that assumption is just plain false.”

    But, Mr. Black, you have yet to provide an answer as to why my claim is false.

  15. Road Warrior

     /  January 10, 2012

    As someone who uses the Library rarely, I am the perfect person to explain why the addition is needed. To assume that books are the only reason for a Library is to ignore the advent of technology, the importance of shared meeting space and the importance of a Library beyond books.

    The Library is too small, too crowded and needs additional rooms, not because it houses more books, but because it is used by more people. Your claim is false simply because you are arguing that ebooks eliminate the need of space.

    However, even with ebooks, computers and everything else, it would be hard to deny that the Library, as media center, will still serve the growing population of Chapel Hill and Orange County.

    We have more students (under 18) and Seniors than ever before and it is important to their quality of life should not be reduced to how books are delivered. Historically, even if we switch to ebooks 100%, Libraries will always serve those unable to buy books.

    This is something that we have valued as a society and I hope we always will.

  16. Fred Black

     /  January 17, 2012

    You can add your thoughts using the Library survey on digital use:

    http://www.townofchapelhill.org/index.aspx?recordid=4412&page=22

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