Public Library Funding 101

How are libraries in Lancaster County funded? Read on for details, but be assured that all contributions to the Lititz Public Library stay at the Lititz Public Library and are used to support the operations, programs and services provided by our library.

The Lititz Public Library relies on a number of funding sources to maintain operations and services. In 2009, the last year before the Great Recession cuts took hold, our library received: 41% of our funding from the state; 36% from library-generated income (including the Friends of the Library, general contributions from the public, grants, sponsorships, income from endowments and fees such as overdue fines, printouts and copies); 20% from our service area municipalities (Warwick Township, Lititz Borough and Elizabeth Township); 2% from county funds; and about 1% from Warwick School District.

In 2014, five years after the state slashed funding to public libraries, the percentages have changed dramatically. This year 55% of our library’s funding comes from library-generated income, 23% from our service area municipalities, only 20% from the state, 2% from county funds and about 1% from Warwick School District.

This trend, which shifts the responsibility for funding a public library away from the state and into the community it serves, is a fact of life for each of the 14 independent public libraries in Lancaster County. Many library directors and their Boards of Trustees have been thrown feet first into serious fundraising, a competitive world where librarians and volunteer board members find themselves rivaling fundraising professionals and grassroots charities for the philanthropic dollars available in their communities. At the Lititz Public Library, our Board of Trustees is working its way up the development learning curve and facing the challenges of fundraising by keeping potential donors informed about what we do and reinforcing the essential role our library plays in the everyday lives of our residents.

Recently, the Library System of Lancaster County (LSLC) announced it was joining the competition for fundraising dollars. LSLC is often confused with Lancaster Public Library, but they are two distinct entities. Lancaster Public Library, located on South Duke Street in Lancaster City, is one of 14 independent public libraries in Lancaster County. On the other hand, LSLC is an administrative office located in the Greenfield Industrial Park and it oversees cooperative services that support the independent public libraries, such as the bookmobile, the online catalog and computer support staff. Traditionally, tax dollars fund the employees and operations of LSLC, and the County Commissioners appoint LSLC’s governing board of trustees. Facing the prospect of dwindling tax-dollar support, LSLC is looking for major donations from businesses and foundations throughout the county; some of the same prospective donors who are asked to sustain the independent public library located in their community.

The specter of LSLC venturing into public library service areas for fundraising has elicited mixed reactions. Some public libraries are unperturbed and even welcoming, some are wary, and others are circling the wagons to protect their potential benefactors from a feared raid by LSLC. The Lititz Public Library’s Board of Trustees chose to be a cautious partner in the process, taking LSLC at its word to be respectful of the priorities and concerns of each independent public library.

Please visit the Lititz Public Library to see and utilize the resources available for our patrons. We welcome input regarding our programs and services, and look forward to our continuing positive and productive relationship with the local community.

Originally published on September 12, 2014 in the Lititz Record Express.