The financial news for libraries in 2016 was for the most part positive—overall, budgets are up modestly—but many, still rebounding from the recession and working to keep pace with needed capital improvements and technology requirements, still feel that they’re just getting by. Libraries, particularly smaller systems, continue to meet the challenge of working with what funds are available. But unexpected or one-time expenses for a library of any size can still result in tightened purse strings. Also, the rising costs of benefits for employees, as well as the uncertainties of the health-care marketplace, are an increasingly common concern.
LJ’s 2016 survey of U.S. public libraries, distributed geographically by size and type, reveals that while libraries continue to regain lost ground, recovery is gradually slowing—and not evenly distributed. Libraries reported moderate gains in overall budgets—an across-the-board increase of 3.2%, representing funding from all sources. Combined with a slight drop in inflation rates—.5% over the 12 months ending in November, compared to .8% for the preceding year—this is still smaller than last year’s overall uptick of 4.3% but welcome nonetheless.