This is part 3 of the series on library funding and the BCCLS system.  For the first and second parts, please following the links.  Part 1, Part 2

(Only Bergen County libraries are eligible for funding from the Bergen County Freeholder grant.)

HASBROUCK HEIGHTS, NJ -  Bergen County Cooperative Library System secretary David Hanson defends changing the funding formula from net lending to equally distributing the funds.   

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Hanson stressed that only Bergen County libraries are eligible to receive funding, and only Bergen County libraries were part of the vote that changed the formula.  

“As for equally dividing the grant up between all libraries, that was a membership debate and decision,” Hanson stated. “I suppose any way of dividing the money would yield benefit to one group or another.  The idea is to be as fair and equitable as possible with the money.”  

“Certainly Net Lending could be seen in a light that you would ask the same question,” Hanson continued. “Why should such few libraries be given so much and the rest none at all?  I don't think there is an answer that would yield 100% satisfaction. In the end given the limitations on any way to divide the money, I think the important aspect was that membership got to discuss and vote how to spend this money.  Whatever else we are, we are a group. It's important that groups talk and decide things together.”

When asked if the Bergen County Freeholders, the group that gives the grant, was consulted about how the fun should be distributed, Hanson said they were not.

“The Freeholders simply give a grant to support public libraries each year to BCCLS,” Hanson stated. “They have never to my understanding placed restrictions,  nor asked that it be spent specifically on one program or another. How the money is spent has been a consortia decision - and up until now that was largely either an administrative or board decision on how to spend the money.  Through the years it has supported net lending and other things but it was always a consortia decision on how to spend the money.

Hanson stressed that: 

  • This is Membership Decision.  Members voted by super majority to end the practice. Bergen County grant is meant to support all libraries in Bergen County and it's important to remember that each library in Bergen County will receive monies - $2400 each.  

  • The current model of net lending focused on one single aspect and didn’t include other shared services such as econtent (the fastest growing part of library collections and each item is usually two to three times as expensive as standard books) nor programming nor shared spaces.  

  • The vast majority of items shared are items that are sitting on a shelf at member libraries - while popular materials are shared as well - the biggest sharing is from available materials.

  • The new formula will be in place for the year and membership will review the use of funds to see how it impacted libraries and the communities they serve.  

BCCLS produced a white paper on the issue, titled "The Bergen County Grant: A Way Forward" concluding:.

That Lending and Borrowing were not correlative as suggested in the Net Lending Equation. The paper also concluded that the key component for becoming a net lender is the amount of scarce items in an individual collection.  This suggests that the Net Lending Equation was rewarding libraries with “niche collections” geared towards limited audiences.  

The report identified that seven libraries receive 50% of all grant monies, and that all are in the top 25% of the borrowers in the Consortia. Additionally it identified that 33 percent of the top lenders to other libraries do not receive funding. (Two libraries in the top 33% are Essex County libraries not eligible for funding.)  

The report also stated:

“If we accept the premise that net lending has run its course as a fundable library metric, the question is ‘where do we go from there?”   This is a more complicated issue. We face the dual challenges of both being of a group of differently sized and funded institutions with the simultaneous issue of having different individual strategic ideas for the future.  Essentially this comes down to two issues: 

  • All libraries agree that funding is the primary ongoing issue,

  • The focuses of the Bergen County member libraries are fragmented”. 

The report identified the following as ideas on how the grant monies should be spent:

  • Delivery - 15

  • Equitably Distributed - 14 

  • Collections - 6

  • Other (Programs, Study Rooms, eBCCLS) - 16

“This fragmentation (of ideas) means our solutions for moving forward are likely limited to first addressing the fundamental fragmented desires of the group and secondly finding strategies than can be bring libraries toward a more unified position in resouce allocation.”

The report concluded with two recommendations:

  • Discontinue Net Lending as a strategy for grant funding,

  • Place a new strategy in place that first addresses the fragmented position of the consortia and then second work to support shared initiatives


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