With the 2018 resignations of six trustees, the “new” Farmington Community Library board has spent much of the past year gathering information about the system that serves Farmington and Farmington Hills.
During a Monday study session at Farmington Hills City Hall, officials from both cities learned how trustees are using that data to plan for the future. Five committees, working with library staff, are focused on personnel, finance, community partnerships, building, and strategic planning.
Trustee Joy Montgomery said the personnel group has reviewed salaries and is gathering comparative information from similar-sized libraries. They’re looking at adding a merit-based bonus plan in the coming year.
Finance committee chair Paul Huyck, the board’s treasurer, said more than 80 percent of library revenues come from property taxes, and 60 percent of those funds are spent on staff salaries and benefits. He said the board relies on consultants with Plante Moran to audit the books and internal controls, and the most recent review was a “very favorable report”.
(Audit documents, the $6.3 million proposed 2018-2019 budget, and budget assumptions are available for review on the library website.)
Trustee Mark Brucki, who leads the Facilities committee, said the group has looked at current building needs and those 6-18 months ahead. Both buildings have aged: The downtown Farmington library, constructed in 1975, was renovated in 1999; and the Farmington Hills library, built in 1972, was expanded and renovated about 15 years ago.
In 2018-19, trustees expect to replace an electrical panel at the Farmington branch and check for structural issues with the wall to which it was attached. They’ll also take on issues with emergency lighting and upgrade the electrical system overall, “so it can handle future growth and capacity,” Brucki said.
Planning for the future
Data gathering has played a role with the Strategic Plan committee as well. Its members are looking at how patrons use the library when they walk through the doors, and when they don’t, Brucki said.
A Management Advisory Committee, with 14 library staff members, works with residents to plan for the future of technology, literacy, partnerships, marketing and communications, and attracting a younger demographic – ages 13-30.
More immediate plans, board president Jim White said, include a dedicated room for teens at the Farmington Hills library and space for outdoor programs there, online payments for library fees, carpeting the children’s area at the Hills library, and purchasing an outdoor marquee sign to advertise programs.
White also credited the librarians who work with trustees. “Every committee could not do its job without staff members participating.”
Farmington Hills city council member Richard Lerner asked whether the number of library visits was up or down. The circulation of books has dropped, White said, but that’s typical when the overall economy has improved.
Even with the uptick in e-resources, the library won’t just throw out the older technology. Library Director Elyse Streit explained that it took time to phase out books on tape, because patrons were still using them. The same will likely hold true with compact discs.
“The transformation over the last year has been remarkable,” Farmington Hills city council member Randy Bruce said. “I think what this has done is given you a strong leadership role… The library is solid going forward.”
However, colleague Theresa Rich said the board’s committee structure looked “heavy” and “feels to me like what staff should be doing.” She also questioned whether it’s time for an elected library board. Currently, each city appoints four trustees.
Some officials mentioned the Farmington Hills appointment controversy that led to last year’s resignations. Hills council member Samantha Steckloff asked how those issues affected library operations.
“There’s been no cost to the community,” White said. “The cost has been borne entirely by the library staff. The pressure they’ve been under has been tremendous.”
“I think we need to take this board and move forward,” Farmington council member Sara Bowman said. “I want to know what you, as a board, would like to see from your councils… I’d really like to hear from each and every one of you.”
Closing out the session, Farmington Hills Mayor Ken Massey said while he appreciated the financial information, he still wants to see more “back up” budget information.
“The audit just tells us you spent your money the way you said you would,” he said.