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Tiffin library seeks more city support

By Lori Lindner
North Liberty Leader
TIFFIN– As cities grow in population, resources increasingly get stretched across more residents. Like similar libraries in expanding municipalities, Tiffin’s Springmier Library is feeling the strain.
Library Director Kris Peterson approached the Tiffin City Council in January to request additional funding in order to remain open throughout the week.
Currently, the library is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on four days a week, and from 9 a.m. until noon on Friday and Saturday mornings. Petersen would like to keep it that way, but needs help from the city to do so.
Petersen was able to expand the library’s hours this year due to leftover funding. With just herself and one assistant, the library serves Clear Creek Amana (CCA) students and the public 38 hours each week. Petersen’s request was not for additional staffing, but merely to keep the library open as much as possible.
“Because we work all under 20 hours (per week), we don’t get paid holidays, we don’t have vacation time, sick time, or anything,” Petersen told the council. “We just get paid for the hours we work.”
Most importantly, the library needs to stay open between the hours of 4 and 6 p.m., and on early school dismissal days, because that is when many CCA students utilize the facility to conduct homework and use the bank of iMac computers.
“Any child who goes to CCA has a password to use the computers, and I can have a lot of kids on the computers at the same time,” Petersen said. “There are a lot of families that still don’t have computers at home, so they come here.”
A school bus leaves daily at 5:45 p.m. to take students back to school sites in Oxford, North Liberty and Amana, she noted. “So they have the opportunity to stay and use the public facility. Kids from Amana would not use our library if they didn‘t have a ride back home.”
The City of Tiffin and the CCA school district have a 28E agreement to operate and co-fund the library, and Johnson County provides funds as well, based on the number of patrons served. Petersen’s budget for this fiscal year was approximately $45,000; CCA provides the facility and equipment, while Tiffin kicked in $22,000 of that for staffing. The city’s funding is a combination of the allowable special library levy– 27 cents per $1,000 of overall assessed property valuations– and money from the general fund.
Petersen’s rollover funds that went into this year’s library budget will disappear, and she is hoping Tiffin will increase its share to $32,000 for fiscal year 2015.
Springmier Library is considered a “C-level” library in Iowa, an Iowa Library Services categorization based on the population served.
“The biggest question is, what is the city’s vision for the library?” Petersen posed to the council. “Do you want a part-time library or full-time?”
Council member Peggy Upton said Tiffin’s public library is located near other communities, including Coralville and North Liberty, that Tiffin patrons are also able to access.
“With so many resources in this area­– I don’t know how many walk-in patrons you have– but I would like to see us find a way to distinguish ourselves from those others,” said Upton. “I would like to see us do more program-based stuff rather than just staffing open hours for people to come in and check out books.”
Petersen agreed that since Springmier became a state-affiliated library, patrons who possess a Tiffin library card can access books and materials at other local libraries, and materials unavailable on the shelves could be easily ordered through the State of Iowa Libraries Online, or SILO. And, like most Iowa libraries, Springmier conducts a summer reading program that garners widespread participation.
“It is really important to the community,” Petersen said. Local daycares bring their children, and kids from the community come to the activities offered two days a week. Petersen holds a preschool story hour every Monday for two hours, and she conducts an after-school program two Wednesdays each month to accommodate early school dismissals. She also offers Saturday programming during holiday seasons.
City council member Mike Ryan asked if Petersen had seen a big demand for electronic books that can be downloaded to e-readers.
“We have NEIBORS, so any Tiffin resident can download books to their Kindles, Nooks, computers or iPads,” Petersen said of the North Eastern Iowa Bridge to Online Resource Sharing. “They just use their current library patron number.”
More recently, Springmier added wireless Internet capabilities, so library users can access free Internet on laptops or other personal devices.
On Feb. 4, voters in the CCA school district approved the school board to issue a $48 million bond in order to make improvements to district facilities, including remodeling the middle school, where the Springmier Library is currently located.
Petersen said she was told the library will be moved as part of the renovation but remain in the middle school. The school’s design is still under discussion at the district board level.
Petersen’s request falls under the city’s budget planning process for the upcoming fiscal year. It’s all part of the growing pains– and gains– of a little city that is seeing one of the fastest population growth rates in the state in recent years. Other public departments that serve the City of Tiffin also asked for increases in their budgets this year, including the volunteer fire department, which requested an additional $6,000 over last year’s request of $110,000, and the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department, seeking to beef up its contract for hours of coverage by 15 percent over last year due to a population increase, jumping from $58,812 to $68,000.
Tiffin City Council members discussed the budget requests at their Jan. 29 budget work session, but took no action. Tiffin City Administrator Michon Jackson said the council will see final numbers at its Feb. 27 meeting, and is expected to vote on the budget that night.