Charles Brown, director of the New Orleans Public Library (NOPL), warned the New Orleans City Council at its Nov. 12 budget hearing that the library will run out of reserve funds by the end of next year. NOPL anticipates spending in 2014 to be $12.72 million — up from $12.11 million this year.
At a budget hearing last year — following glowing praise after NOPL reopened several branches and saw a 30 percent climb in library visitors — Brown warned the council of the library's dwindling reserve funds, which totaled $8 million in 2012. The reserve funds are expected to fall to $4.5 million in 2013 — and $604,209 next year.
The city's general fund did not kick in any money for the library this year, and the same holds true for 2014. Brown said by the end of next year and the beginning of 2015, "We essentially run out of money."
NOPL then will be wholly dependent on its 3.14-mill dedicated property tax, as it maintains 13 branches, keeps 170 employees on its payroll and expands its school readiness and literacy programs (which Brown called a "top priority") as well as English language courses and community outreach. Brown also warned, as he did in 2012, that the library's archives, housed without climate control or security below the Main Library, needs rescuing.
"What I don't appreciate is how we talk about what we value — job creation, not building more jails but more libraries, youth development, all these great things," said District B Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell. "Then when I look at the city's investment, and I see zero, it begs me to believe how much we love our libraries.
"We've caused you to spend all your reserves," she said. "You've been put in a very sticky situation."