Brogan Nudges City Toward 1 Percent

Paul Bass PhotoBuilding on last year’s successful pitch to budget-makers, the city’s chief librarian is trying to move the city ever closer to spending about 1 percent of its general fund money on libraries.

Brogan is asking the Board of Alders to fund three new positions—a library technical assistant, a “young minds” and family learning librarian, and a teen services librarian—that she called crucial to keeping open all library branches in the city open an extra day a week.

The library technical assistant would go to the Mitchell Branch, which is the only one left without such support. The young minds librarian would go to the Stetson Branch, which is the only one without a second librarian. The teen services librarian would work with all the library branches and the Ives Teen Center which opened last year. That person also would be the system’s liaison to the city’s YouthStat program.

Brogan told alders during a hearing of the Finance Committee at City Hall Monday night that last year’s approval of four new full-time positions allowed the system to stabilize its staffing and services. It also moved the city closer to assigning 1 percent of the city’s general fund to the library. (This story describes how Brogan used social media and other organizing to win a budget increase last year.)

The mayor’s proposed fiscal 2017 budget for the department would mean the city would spend .79 percent of the general fund budget on library services.

“The goal this year is to open the four branch libraries one additional week day,” Brogan said. She said with the additional three staff members, branch libraries would be open Monday through Thursday, remain closed on Friday and open on Saturday.

“Of course, our long term goal is to get branch and neighborhood libraries open with parity of hours with Ives downtown,” she said. In addition to three positions in the general fund, the library system is asking for two special fund positions that would support information technology and customer service. Brogan said those positions would only be funded through grants and any money that could be raised by the New Haven Free Public Library Foundation, but she would like to eventually see them in the general fund.

Alders complimented Brogan Monday night for the level of detail she provided including the full cost of new positions including salaries and benefits. She also provided detailed job descriptions, which alders have been asking department heads to provide when they ask for funding for positions.

“You brought your A game,” said Hill Alder Dave Reyes Jr.

An “A game” wasn’t enough to keep Annex Alder Alphonse Paolillo Jr. from asking a question he has asked many a city department head at the numerous presentations that have been held on the budget so far: What is the priority?

“We know to you they’re all critical,” Paolillo said of the new general fund positions. “We’re not saying one is not important, but [on a scale] of very critical to maybe critical, what position could you maybe wait on until next year?”

Brogan said without those three the branch libraries can’t open an extra day.

“We were really wanting four to really do extra hours,” she said. “We’d have to address the hours.”

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posted by: Noteworthy on April 13, 2016  4:19pm

Just say no. We don’t need to “spend” one percent. And we don’t “need” another librarian. One is fine. No more empire building.

posted by: wendy1 on April 13, 2016  6:10pm

Our good libraries serve 2 purposes—-books, research, periodicals for the masses, AND a warming center for for the masses of “invisible” homeless.

I told Brogan in a letter that she should go after DeLauro and Blumenthal, both uber-rich.

posted by: Josiah Brown on April 14, 2016  8:54pm

“Noteworthy” and others have understandable concerns about the City budget, especially as the State budget—on which we substantially depend—faces bleak prospects during the coming year(s).

Yet it’s legitimate for the City to spend .79 percent (reaching even 1 percent would require a much bigger library funding increase) of its operating budget on its library system.  We have made major investments in the branch libraries, strong facilities located in neighborhoods throughout the community.  Opening each branch a minimum of five days a week would seem a modest, not an extravagant, expectation. 

Given the role libraries play in supporting literacy (and technology access, youth development, English language and math instruction, workforce preparation, etc. as well life-saving heating/cooling during extreme weather conditions) for people of all ages, settling for having any of the branches open fewer than five days a week would be short-sighted and a missed opportunity.

Yes, the City budget faces growing pressures.  Efficiencies can surely be found in areas ranging from overtime pay to the attrition of certain jobs in various departments.  But opening our libraries fewer than five days a week would be self-defeating.

Happy library week…

posted by: Billy on April 14, 2016  11:01pm

As a New Haven taxpayer, I fully support Martha in this request. Libraries are an essential resource beyond books, research, and warming centers. In a city with no community centers, the libraries free programs for all ages are vitally important to community life in New Haven. I have appreciated the events and resources myself, and for members of my family, for many years, and think that expanding them can only improve our city.