Library staff hoping to restore Monday hours

In their request for the new budget, staff at the Great Falls Public Library are requesting additional funding to open for four hours on Mondays.

That equates to about $35,000 over the funds the city obligates to the library in an agreement. The city budget year runs from July 1-June 30, but is often formally approved in late summer by the City Commission. Last year, the city allocated $350,000 for the library.

Kathy Mora, library director, said they are asking for the additional funding over what the city is required to fund in order to add those hours on Mondays, which would require more staff. Mora said they’re looking at two part-time positions.

The Great Falls Public Library will be closed on Saturday for Memorial Day and begins summer hours on May 28, meaning the library will be closed on Sundays and Mondays throughout the summer.

One of the funding challenges facing the Great Falls, and all Montana public libraries, is a bill passed by the Legislature this year and signed into law by Gov. Steve Bullock earlier this year.

State funding for public libraries is based on the U.S. census and typically, the Great Falls library gets $28,000 in state funding.

But, under HB 261, if the certified unaudited general fund revenue and transfers into the general fund received in fiscal year 2017 are less than $2,213,000,000, the state funding for libraries will be eliminated in fiscal year 2018, which starts July 1.

If the revenue for fiscal year 2018 is less than  $2,360,000,000, state funding for public libraries will be eliminated again in fiscal year 2019, which begins July 1, 2018.

Mora said she and her staff have crafted a budget with the anticipation of not having that $28,000 in state funding.

She said they’ve requested the $28,000 from the city, but are planning to operate without it coming from the state or the city. Mora said in their proposed budget, they’ve decreased their materials purchases, which would include books, movies, books on tape and digital books, since the Great Falls Public Library Foundation can fund material purchases but not operations, Mora said.

“The foundation has been generous,” Mora said, and though it won’t fund general operating expenses, it can fund, and has in the past, materials, programs, computers and digital books.

Among the programs supported in part by the foundation is the Bookmobile, which was off the road for awhile this year while the generator was replaced. The annual operating budget for the Bookmobile is $31,000 and Mora said donations could potentially help with repairs to the aging vehicle.

Interested in donating to the foundation or finding other ways to support the community library? Click here for more information.

Work sessions and public hearings on the city budget will be coming this summer and you’ll find continuous coverage here throughout the process.