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FY13 Operating Budget Testimony

FY13 Operating Budget Testimony

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04/22/2013

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1FY2013 Operating Budget TestimonySiobhan A. Reardon, President and DirectorFree Library of PhiladelphiaPresented before City Council Committee of the WholeApril 17, 2012Council President Clarke and Members of Council: I am Siobhan Reardon, President andDirector of the Free Library of Philadelphia. Joining me this afternoon is Robert Heim, Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Free Library. I also want to recognize Mike DiBerardinis, DeputyMayor for Environmental and Community Resources. Lastly, I want to welcome the newmembers of City Council. I look forward to working with you and your colleagues in thecoming months and years to continue to bring the best possible library service to our city. The Free Library of Philadelphia is on the move. Exciting initiatives, innovative ways odelivering services, and standing-room only programs are indications of the increased demandfor our services, and the Library’s ability to meet those needs. In order to continue on thistrajectory, the FLP is requesting $33,353,362 in city funds for Fiscal Year 2013, comprised of $29,283,037 in Class 100, $2,267,666 in Class 200, and $1,802,659 in Class 300 and 400. Thisrepresents no change from our FY12 estimated obligations. In addition, we are seeking$9,102,092 in Commonwealth support. The Free Library recently completed a comprehensive strategic planning process. Through this,the Board of Trustees and Foundation Board of Directors agreed that serving the public in thecoming years means building on our past—on our strengths and tremendous resources includingstaff, facilities, and reputation. But it does not mean standing still. We will need to build newcapabilities and resources to continue to provide world-class service. We need to plan and actstrategically with a clear view of what the future will demand of the Library. If the Free Libraryis to be the same—the same institution that the citizens of Philadelphia can trust to inspire theircuriosity and guide their learning—it has to change. In response to this mandate, we have begunto move in new directions, and I am pleased to share with you some of our recentaccomplishments.In order to provide Library services in neighborhoods not served by an existing physical facility,we have opened six Hot Spots within community centers throughout the city. Hot Spots bringfree computer access, training classes and high speed internet to areas with high levels of povertyand the lowest rates of technological inclusion. Each site is open 20 hours a week, and staffed bya trained computer assistant. Our partner organizations are
 
Heavenly Hall Annex at
 
4015 PoplarStreet, the Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia at 2416 South 7th Street, the Institutefor the Development of African-American Youth at
 
2221 North Broad, the Village of Arts
 
andHumanities at
 
2544 Germantown Avenue, and Mercy Neighborhood Ministries at
 
1939 WestVenango. A slightly different model is housed at the Audenreid Charter High School at 3301
 
2 Tasker Avenue. It draws a large number of students, but is also open to the public. In less thanone year, the Hot Spots have welcomed 24,000 visits, and the numbers are growing all the time. The Free Library will be taking the Hot Spot model on the road through its techmobile, officiallylaunched just last week. Modeled after the bookmobile of years ago, the techmobile is acomputer lab outfitted with broadband, laptops, iPads, and audiovisual equipment. It will travelbetween neighborhoods with the least Broadband saturation, identified through partnerships withcommunity organizations. Target audiences will be job seekers, GED learners, and at-risk teens,who will gain computer and internet literacy skills. At every stop there will be a trainingworkshop on computer and email basics, resume writing and job search techniques, plus sessionson small business and parenting resources, social networking, e-books and more.Another new outpost of Library services will be the Philadelphia International Airport. Awireless infrastructure is planned initially for Terminal B, one of the busiest at the airport.Building from there, the Library will develop a myriad of technological and other programs toaccommodate this diverse community. Further out, we are excited by the prospect of partneringwith the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to develop a health care-library-recreation campusat the site of our current South Philadelphia branch at Broad and Morris. We anticipate that thiswill be a technology-laden facility which will also continue to offer more traditional services.New technologies and devices are another important component of the Library’s future growthand service. E-books are growing in popularity daily: In July 2011 there were 17,000downloads; in February of this year there were 28,000. Freegal is an online music service alsoavailable through the Library’s website that allows customers to download up to three songsfrom the Sony catalogue every week. Since we began offering this service in March 2011, therehave been 44,000 downloads, with usage increasing steadily. The Free Library also has offerings targeted to specific audiences. Children enjoy Tumblebooks,an online collection of animated, talking picture books which teach kids the joy of reading.Smartboards
 
aka “teen magnets” have allowed us to attract youth with educational gamingand activities, stop-motion animation production, and iPad activities on these digitally-enhancedwhiteboards at the Rodriguez, Roxborough, Tacony, West Oak Lane, and Widener branches. We have started lending e-readers through our senior services initiative. Fifty-five Nooks areavailable for seniors to borrow for two weeks after they have taken a brief training. The e-readers are pre-loaded with “New York Times” bestsellers, classics, and the “One Book, OnePhiladelphia” selection. Currently available at Parkway Central, this service will shortly beoffered at Bustleton, Wynnefield, and Falls of Schuylkill.At the same time that the Free Library looks to new and cutting edge activities, we recognize thatthe public also turns to us for a panoply of essential services. Recent evidence of this wasprovided by the Pew Research Initiative. The Free Library was honored to have been selected asa subject of study and analysis, the results of which were presented to City Council last week.Of particular note was the chart that Pew compiled, included at the end of this statement. Itdetails the wide range of roles that the Free Library fills and how we support government andnonprofit agencies, ranging from assisting schoolchildren through the Afterschool program,homework help, and class visits to the branches; to revenue collection through the provision of 
 
3tax assistance and forms. It is further proof of the important and integral role that the FreeLibrary holds in residentslives.Other findings in the Pew report revealed that 51 percent of the adults polled said they hadvisited a library at least once in the past 12 months, and 30 percent went at least once per month.Use of Library computers has risen by 80 percent in the last six years. When asked why theyvisited the Library, 34 percent said it was to get health information, 29 percent were looking for jobs, 23 percent applied for government services or benefits, and 18 percent were studying for atest, such as the GED. Also of note was the survey ranking of the roles the Library plays. Inorder of importance, 91 percent rated “providing a safe place for children and families” as veryimportant, 89 percent said “providing a quiet place to study and read,” and 85 percent said“providing access to computers and the Internet.” The study also pointed out that the Library’scirculation increased 12 percent between FY05 and FY11, and that compared to 14 other largepublic library systems, program attendance at the Free Library, which was 640,000 in 2011,exceeds the average of the other systems studied by nearly 50 percent. They also noted thatunplanned closings dropped from 8,000 hours in 2010 to 3,662 hours in 2011. We are pleased toreport that the current schedule is stable at five days per branch, and further that the open rate isover 96 percent.Partnerships are a valuable way for the Free Library to extend its services. Read, Baby, Read isan initiative to ensure that children are ready to read from the youngest ages. In collaborationwith the Reach Out and Read program at Children’s Hospital and four medical practices in Southand West Philadelphia, we are providing literacy materials for parents during their well-babyvisits for infants between two months and one year old. For children a bit older, we conducted aregistration drive and delivered 10,000 library cards to kindergarten students in 168 publicschools last year. This was done in collaboration with the School District, the first time we haddone so with them on a systemwide basis. Previously, we did a registration drive for students ingrades 1 through 12, and are planning drives for other targeted populations in the future. The Free Library is growing its partnership with the School District in other important ways. Weare currently organizing a program to help students gain literacy skills, and increase theirparticipation in the LEAP afterschool program and Summer Reading. We will begin on a pilotbasis, and have paired Reynolds School at 24th and Stewart with the Cecil B. Moore branch at23rd and Cecil B. Moore, Southwark School at 9th and Mifflin with the South Philadelphiabranch at Broad and Morris, the Anderson School at 60th and Cobbs Creek with the BlancheNixon/Cobbs Creek branch at 58th and Cobbs Creek, and the Ellwood School at 13th and OakLane with the Oak Lane branch one block away. We are enthusiastic about working together forthe benefit of these third graders, and will be tracking their progress in order to gauge the impactof our work. We look forward to expanding the pairings in the future.Support for small businesses is another important commitment. Librarians are now available forone-on-one research training sessions for aspiring entrepreneurs. One can learn how to researchan industry, identify competitors, and collect demographic information, while becomingacquainted with our wide range of resources. A recent Small Business Resource Fair attracted250 fledgling entrepreneurs, small business owners, and representatives from non-profitorganizations and government agencies. Branches are also active in supporting small businesses.

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