Library asks for more dollars as demand for services increases
Sunday hours and more staff and programming are immediate goals
By Beth Kassab
Winter Park Library Executive Director Melissa Schneider asked the Winter Park City Commission for more money this week in an effort to add Sunday hours and additional staff as demand for content, classes and other programs surges.
“Nationally, libraries have really struggled to get people back in the doors” in a post-pandemic world, she said, “but when we compare ourselves to our peers it’s tremendous.”
Since the new building opened in December 2021, she said, the growth in circulation of youth and family content is especially impressive. The number of active library cards has nearly doubled in the last five years and interest in programs has grown.
In 2018, the library had 42 employees, which dropped to 36 by 2022. But in that same period, average monthly visits increased from 10,548 to 13,400, representing a 15% increase through this year. Wi-Fi and computer use has more than doubled to an anticipated 120,000 sessions this year.
So far, the city’s proposed budget includes a 5% increase or about $92,000 in additional dollars. The city’s contributions are devoted entirely to personnel costs for the nonprofit library, which relies on grants and philanthropy to supplement city government support.
Schneider said the library would need a 24% increase from the city, or about $350,000, to meet the added demand for staff, services and Sunday hours. But she also proposed an alternative scenario — a 14% increase, or $200,000, which she said would still leave some gaps, but would allow some new staff, programming and hours on Sunday when more families are able to use the library.
She committed to contributing more funding from the library endowment and fundraising if the city would increase its contribution. She noted the library will turn 138 years old this year.
Anderson said the city has a small contingency for increased funding, but suggested it also may be possible to provide additional dollars from the Community Redevelopment Agency, which city leaders are hoping to expand and extend before its scheduled sunset in 2027.
Commissioners did not commit to a funding amount, but Mayor Phil Anderson said he was “blown away” by the library’s accomplishments and its ability to buck national trends. The budget won’t be finalized until next month.
At the same meeting the city approved a $230,000 study by Geosyntec Consultants to analyze stormwater management and flood prevention on the west side of the city. The study area includes the library and Lake Mendsen, the pond at MLK Park next to the library, plus areas surrounding Lake Killarney, Lake Bell, Lake Wilderness and Lake Gem. Lake Mendsen has experienced heavily increased flooding since the new library was constructed.
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