Monday, March 2, 2015

City Council–Library Board Work Session 10-Feb-2015

I asked Tim Irwin, the city council representative on the the library board, to “guest host” this post and he graciously accepted. I’ve put his comments before a copy of a presentation the library board delivered at the work session.

It is quite an honor for Rod to ask me to write a report on the library work session the city council had with the library board 2 weeks ago. 

Tim IrwinIncluded in this report is the presentation by the library board president, Blythe Shupe and I feel she did a very good job explaining the progress the Highland City Library has made over the last 8 years. The library is well managed and well supervised by very dedicated volunteers appointed by the mayor. To be clear, the purpose of the work session was to find ways the council could support the library and its goals. In my view of the council, all 5 members like the library. Some residents were misled in the last election thinking that 2 candidates wanted the library to be diminished some way. That was clearly a campaign tactic that did not resonate with the voters and it was in fact a false view held by the losing candidates. In the interest of full disclosure, I serve on the library board at the request of the mayor.

What is true is that there is some disagreement within the city and the council as to how to fund the library going forward. It is interesting that the board chair chose the following quote to start off the discussion:

“I have often thought that nothing would do more extensive good at small expense than the establishment of a small circulating library in every county, to consist of a few well-chosen books, to be lent to the people of the country under regulations as would secure their safe return in due time.”—Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Wyche, 1809

That quote caused me to think about whether another brick and mortar library was needed in our area since we are so close to American Fork Library and Lehi Library is not that far. Is the library an archaic entity that may not survive the technological world? Should we be lending entertainment DVD's? But I digress as those are issues for another time.

One of the duties of the council is to watch the funds given to the city to be sure they are efficiently used.  The library dedicated tax makes that a little more difficult since all property tax collected by the city under the dedicated tax must go to the library even if the funds are not needed by the library.  As you may know the city has been struggling with deteriorating roads and the library has actually been putting money in reserves for future use. The council cannot redirect any of those funds for needed projects (like roads) in the city. Even the use of property tax whether a dedicated tax or general funds for the library is an issue worth debate.  Should those that use the library fund the library with user fees? Should those that have larger homes in the city pay more for the library even if they don't use it? Should those that own their home in Highland but have several other pieces of property in Highland pay double or triple for the library expenses.  Should those who don't live in Highland but own property in Highland pay for the library. Should the library have a higher standing in the budget process than public safety (police and fire)? There are of course pros and cons for all of those arguments and that is now where the debate starts as we get in to the 2015-16 budget preparation.

It is appropriate for the city residents to voice their opinion and we all welcome your views.  Ultimately, as your elected representatives, we need to make the decision that will serve Highland best. 

Please take the time to read the Library report and ponder the questions I have listed above.  How can we serve the residents of Highland with a good library and keep the principles of the proper role of government.  I welcome your comments and again thank Rod for allowing me to share my thoughts on the library board/council work session.

Tim Irwin

Library Board Presentation, Blythe Shupe, Board Chair
Feb 10, 2015


“I have often thought that nothing would do more extensive good at small expense than the establishment of a small circulating library in every county, to consist of a few well-chosen books, to be lent to the people of the country under regulations as would secure their safe return in due time.”—Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Wyche, 1809

The Library Yesterday and Today

Yesterday: A brick and mortar building that houses and loans books and is a central repository of information

Today: “[Libraries] are no longer just a warehouse or repository for books - a passive, quiet, retreat for those with leisure time to read. Rather they are a whirlwind of activity and learning and moving parts and programs.”

The Mission of the Highland City Library

According to an article in Forbes Magazine published on Jan 16, 2013, “Libraries support three core missions: promoting reading, offering access to information and anchoring communities.”

The Highland City Library is right on trend for the library of today and the future. The mission of the Highland City Library is to provide all residents with:

  • Access to information that educates, inspires, and entertains
  • Programs that foster a love for reading and lifelong learning
  • A gathering place that creates a sense of community and enhances the quality of life.

Our mission statement is built upon and reflects the values of a population that appreciate education, family, community, access to technology and information, and efficiency in operation.

Role statements, expanded goals, etc. are available at

Mission Breakdown

Access to information that educates, inspires, and entertains


The Highland City Library will remain a repository for print books, periodicals, magazines, newspapers, etc., with a focus on popular reading. Additional services that meet this need are:

  • Booklists: the library staff maintains a list of books that are recommended reading, popular in book clubs, award winners, etc. These are available on the website or by coming into the library.
  • EBooks: According to a 2014 Pew Research Study, 28% of readers have read an eBook. However, they are reading print books as well. 69% of people read print books only while only 4% of readers only read e-books.3 EBooks are available to download using your Highland City Library card.
  • DVDs
  • Audio Books

There is an argument that our library is too small to truly accommodate the needs of the community. Future growth is a library board initiative but there are solutions available today.

  • Interlibrary loan: Get as many as three items a month on loan from another library
  • Membership in Northern Utah County Library Coop (NUCLC): Allows patrons to get a library card for Pleasant Grove, Lehi, American Fork, Eagle Mountain or Saratoga Springs. We are not yet a full member but working towards that membership.

Programs That Foster Love For Reading And Lifelong Learning


The library will always maintain a goal and responsibility to teach and foster learning. We are currently doing this via variety of methods which includes but is not limited to the following:

  • Early literacy station (purchased via grant)
  • Literacy kits
  • Mango languages program: Available online with a library card to assist in learning another language or to assist those who are learning English as a second language
  • Summer Reading Programs
  • Story time: The best entertainment for miles around!
  • Family Activities
  • Resources for Test and Career Skills: The library is a great source of information when studying for a GED, learning how to build a deck or researching your next career. The library has a variety of manuals as well as online testing programs. Note, the library recently added a Driver Education program which includes CDL tests as well as car and motorcycle
  • Boy Scout Merit Badge Resources
  • Librarians: Our dedicated staff manage the materials available online as well as in the library and assist patrons in sifting through those materials to find the answers they seek
  • Computer Access: According to a study funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation:

People of all ages, incomes, races, and levels of education go to the library for Internet access, whether they have a connection at home or not. Users turned to computers at the public library for a wide range of reasons, whether it was because they did not have access elsewhere, needed faster Internet speed, wanted technical help from a librarian, competed for access to a computer at home, or simply wanted to work somewhere more peaceful and inviting than a crowded coffee shop or a hectic unemployment office.

The library has future initiatives to increase our programming. Our proposed 2015-2016 budget will include additional funds for those programs as well as an additional part time staff member to assist Michelle DeKorver with programming. Future programming will include:

  • Teen programs: Once a thriving program we are looking to revive
  • Senior programming: Bridging the digital divide as well as other programs would be added

A Gathering Place That Creates A Sense Of Community And Enhances The Quality Of Life


The Highland City Library is the heart of the community. It is one of the few gathering places in our community. Besides the programs mentioned above, the library is a place to study, work on a business proposal, read the morning paper or read a picture book with a child in a quiet corner. In addition, we:

  • Preserve and make available current documents relating to the history of Highland City and northern Utah County.
  • Work with Arts Council and Utah Arts Council to offer opportunities for exhibiting art in library.
  • Partner with Ashford Care Center to provide a small in house branch which includes not only books for residents, but books and DVDs for family members to enjoy while visiting their loved ones.

The Highland Library Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow


Our first three-year plan focused on basic services, growing the library, establishing traditions and services that will serve us through the coming years. It stretched us to provide services that are beyond the basics, beginning to provide the community with enhanced library service.

Our second three-year plan focused on improving existing services and looking for more efficiency in the current processes and procedures, improving customer service, and maintaining the rights of the patron.

Our next three years will focus on expansion and partnership with other associations and neighboring communities and businesses, expanded library programs and continued improvement of existing services. Some of the current initiatives are:

  • Increasing our online/social media presence via Facebook, an online newsletter and a blog
  • Partnering with businesses and community members better market and spread our message
    • Enlisting marketing help
    • Promoting a Read Campaign (similar to the shop local campaign Highland City is promoting)
  • Working with local authors to participate in future marketing/fundraising campaigns. We have enlisted Brandon Mull to participate
  • Working with United for Libraries, a division of the American Library Association, to improve our advocacy skills
  • Exploring fundraising opportunities

State of the Library


The current state of the library as taken from the annual library report given at the city council includes the following statistics:

  • Checkouts: 171,184 items
    - 116.945 (68%) were children’s materials
  • Collection: 41,726 items
    - 2,583 new items added
  • Databases: 42
  • Visitors: 67,874
  • Questions answered: 4,419
  • Computer users: approximately 14,000
  • Website visits: 26,261

For the city of Highland and its citizens, the return on investment for the library is significant.

Return on Investment

  • $3,244,380.00 Items checked out x $20.00
  • $ 19,720.00 People attending programs at $5.00 per person Reference questions answered at $5.00 per
  • $ 22,095.00 question
  • $ 140,000.00 Computer users at $10.00 per use
  • $3,426,195.00 Total Monetary Value
  • Return on Investment for every dollar spent $15.02 2013-2014

For every $100.00 in property tax paid in Highland, the money is divided up as follows (based on 2014 property taxes):

  • Alpine School district = $71.19
  • Utah County = $8.05
  • Central Utah Water district = $3.71
  • County Assessing and Collecting of Taxes = $2.05
  • North Utah County Water = $0.22
  • Highland City = $14.78
    The library’s dedicated tax is 13.1% of this so (14.78 x 13.1) = $1.94. Thus, the library receives $1.94 per $100.00 in property tax collected.(=1.94% of property tax).


Looking at the dollars spent for the library, the expenditure per family is very small, especially compared to the return on investment. For example, if a family pays $2527.71 in property taxes, only $48.94 of this went to the library. In comparison, $1,799.47 was paid to the School District and $51.82 to the County Assessor to assess and collect the taxes.

Looking at the impact of the dollars spent on a family budget, if a family purchased two books at approximately $15.99 each, plus two DVD’s at $19.99 each, the total cost would be $71.96 without sales tax or shipping if applicable, well above the $48.94 given in the example.

To further put this in perspective, I took the cell phone bill of a family of five. With five cell phones (one smart phone) on a family plan the bill is $144. Compared to approximately $4.00 per month for the library, the taxes paid out are barely a drop in the bucket.

In addition, let’s look at the 2014 budget year:

  • Highland garbage collection expenditures = $614,493.00 = 8.2% of General Fund expenditure = 2.5Xthe library expenditures of $243, 748.00
  • Highland Police, Fire and Paramedic costs = $2,955,409 = 39.4% of General Fund expenditure = 12.6X the library expenditures
  • Bond Debt (2006/2007 General Fund Bonds) paid each year = $970,516 = 12.94% of General Fund expenditures = 4 X library expenditures
  • Sewer Expenses = $1,796,388 (not part of General Fund) = 7.4X the library expenditure of $243, 748.00
  • While the library has the only ‘dedicated’ property tax, the City has four ‘dedicated’ fees (fees=taxes) that fund the City utility (enterprise )funds. These are collected monthly: culinary water, pressurized irrigation, storm sewer, and regular sewer. The fees collected for these funds legally should only be used for the fund for which they are collected. (In emergency’s, these funds can be used but need to be repaid.) Also, the Open Space fees are collected in a similar fashion and should be ‘dedicated’ for the maintenance of the Open Space neighborhoods. All these fees provide revenue and expenditures outside of the General Fund and Total $4,948,200 in the 2015 budget. Thus, while the General Fund budget is $7,495,948, these additional fees mean the actual budget is at least $13,000,000.

From this, we can state: Library expenditures are only 3.25% of the General Fund expenditures, but adding in the Enterprise utility funds costs, is only 1.9% of Total City expenditures in the 2014-15 budget year.

In Conclusion

As your library board, we feel that the library is a healthy investment for our community, well worth the dollars collected and spent and well worth keeping a dedicated tax. We believe that the library supports the values and vision of Highland City.

The very existence of libraries affords the best evidence that we may yet have hope for the future of man. TS Eliot

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