The cost of the Wood County District Public Library’s renewal levy is about equal to the price of a book.
The six-year, 0.8-mill levy, which will be on the Nov. 3 ballot, costs the owner of a $100,000 home $21.29 per year, said Michael Penrod, library director.
“That is about the cost of one hardcover book or two large pizzas,” he said.
In 2019, the levy generated $1 million for the library.
The levy funds all areas of the library’s current expenses. Some of those include librarians’ salaries; the purchase of new books, eBooks, large print books and audiobooks; building maintenance; and technology upgrades.
In 2019, the library had total general expenses of $2.4 million.
Total 2019 revenues were $1.6 million in state funding, $1 million in levy funding, $94,505 miscellaneous revenue (payment for lost books, meeting room rentals, interest, etc.), and $184,376 gifts from patrons, the foundation and the Friends of the Library.
The levy accounts for about 40% of the library’s total revenues, and thus funds about 40% of all library expenses, services, and purchases of new books, Penrod said. Since 2010, the levy has allowed the library to extend services to the entire service district to meet community needs.
Since 2010, the community’s borrowing of library materials has increased 52%, the count of cardholders has gone up 38% (even with annual purges of the rolls), program attendance has increased 75%, and the number of times patrons ask staff for help has increased 49%.
WCDPL’s first-ever operating levy request passed in November 2010 with 58% voter approval. The request was for 0.8 mills for five years and was to generate about $1 million per year to support current expenses.
This levy was renewed for six years in November 2014 with nearly 70% voter approval. The change in term from five years to six years was to make sure the campaigns can remain in November of even-numbered years (always a gubernatorial or presidential election) to maintain high visibility and voter reach.
Passage of the levy will not add any new services, Penrod said.
“Since the issue on the ballot is a renewal and will not bring in additional dollars, we hope that passage of the levy will allow us to maintain services at 2019 levels once the pandemic is over, and to be able to adapt to new community needs in the future,” he said.
The pandemic has changed the library, both the main branch in Bowling Green and Walbridge, Penrod said.
He said there are still core services provided. Patrons can come into the buildings, read newspapers, check out books and ask reference questions. But there are no librarians reading to children, kids playing in the castle and performers singing in the atrium.
“It feels like the library in the ’70s,” he said.
There are several virtual programs and curbside service.
“We’re excited to provide services in new ways,” Penrod said. “When it (the pandemic) is done it’s going to be fun to gather 700 people with an author in the performing arts center.
“I am amazed that our circulation has only dropped 40%,” he added. “This community still needs and wants its books.”
Penrod said he knows that the library has a lot of support in the community. Campaigning for a tax during the coronavirus pandemic, though, has been difficult.
“We couldn’t do all the speaking engagements,” he said, adding that during the last renewal campaign he spoke to over 40 groups over two months.
“We just can’t do that,” Penrod said. “Doing a campaign in a pandemic when you can’t get together is a little troubling. … I never take these campaigns for granted.
“The committee and I are both hopeful that we earned the public’s trust in 2010, maintained it in 2014 and have maintained it this year.”
Property owners can go to the Wood County Auditor’s website (auditor.co.wood.oh.us), locate their property information under “Real Estate Property Search,” and then click “levy estimator” to see exactly how much the library levy currently costs.