Morrison County’s contribution to the 2022 Great River Regional Library (GRRL) budget will be reduced from what it paid in 2021.
GRRL Executive Director Karen Pundsack and Accounting Coordinator Amy Anderson briefed the Morrison County Board of Commissioners on the decrease in a September 7 presentation. In total, Morrison County will pay $ 491,598 for the 2022 budget; $ 11,403 less than its contribution in 2021. GRRL operates public libraries in Little Falls, Pierz, Royalton, Swanville and Upsala.
Anderson said GRRL receives the majority of its operating and capital funding from the six counties it serves. The library board adopted the 2022 budget in July
“Several goals were set by our directors as part of the process,” said Anderson. “Keep county stocks as flat as possible and use reserves in the overall 2022 budget. To keep contributions stable, shares are calculated using the library’s 2021 operating budget and taking into account the population of each county. , the number of registered users and the net fiscal capacity.
To reach its total budget of $ 9.733 million, $ 315,218 of unsigned funds from library reserves will be incorporated in 2022.
Pundsack said the library has a “fairly healthy” reserve at this point. The board focused on reducing this reserve to help offset county shares. She said this year, due to fluctuations in the state’s funding formula, some counties were paying more than 2021 and others less.
“Morrison County was one of the lowest paying ones,” she said. “Our goal is to reduce this reserve over time. But, as Amy mentioned, we also see a lot of fluctuations in our state aid. “
The 2022 GRRL budget also supports the expansion of the library’s fine-free initiative. The program launched in 2019 and does exactly what it says – there is no fine for overdue documents that have been checked out from the library.
Anderson said fines for late material only make up about 1% of the library’s overall budget. They are also not guaranteed, so planning for a significant reduction actually made it easier to calculate that line in the 2022 budget.
However, customers are still responsible for replacing items when they are not returned.
“The goals of expanding this idea are to reduce financial barriers that can prevent patrons from accessing library materials and to increase the time our staff can devote to helping library users in a positive way.” Anderson said.
She said library staff are studying how libraries in other cities and counties have set their policies when adopting similar programs.
Another program that the GRRL is highlighting as the school resumes its classes and prepares to enter the new year is its WiFi2GO project. Launched in 2020 with the help of state telecommunications assistance grants, the program means all five libraries in Morrison County – as well as the entire GRRL system – will have Wi-Fi hotspots. available.
A WiFi hotspot is a device that allows the user to access an Internet connection from anywhere. The access point works from cell phone towers to provide a signal, and any device can be used to go to the web after connecting through the access point. The devices are available for verification for one week at each of the GRRL locations.
Pundsack said the program has been well received so far.
“There’s no limit to the amount of data you can use on these access points so we have a lot of people doing that kind of rotation,” she said.
The expansion of the program evolved from the success of a pilot project that began with fundraising in Pierz. Additional support allowed for increased funding, allowing the program to be implemented system-wide. Each library has at least five access points available for payment. Customers can call ahead and see if there is one available during library hours.
“It looks good for the people over there,” County Board Chairman Mike Wilson said. “I would say this is a pretty hot item.”
Another project that the library is looking to implement at some point is also to expand broadband connectivity. With funds from the American Rescue Plan Act, GRRL is working with some cities that have parking outside their building to have WiFi available 24/7 outside the library.
“We’re actually looking at putting something on a light pole in these library parking lots,” Pundsack said. “Our customers certainly use the library for a lot of different things, and broadband is one of those things.”
“It’s a great idea because I know people who go to McDonald’s or whatever and sit in the parking lot so they can connect to their WiFi,” Wilson said.