We welcome Joan Savoy and Andrew Duhon of the Lafayette Public Library Foundation. Joan is the current President of the Foundation and Andrew is a longtime volunteer on behalf of the public library, having also served twice as President on the Library Board of Control.
The Foundation is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization created in 1992 that supplements taxpayer funding of our libraries by encouraging private donations and endowments that provide books and services and fund special programs and projects. More than $200,000 has been raised over the years and monies have been dedicated to library improvements such as enhancing the entrance to the children’s wing in the Main Library, “wrapping” the bookmobile and purchasing books for the libraries.
Donors can create an endowment fund in the name of a family member, individual, or business organization with a minimum contribution of $100; once the endowment is fully funded at $1,000, one book will be donated annually in perpetuity in honor of the named endowment. The foundation’s largest fundraiser is the annual luncheon which highlights local authors and awards proponents of the library system. The theme of this year’s event was “The Future Is Local!” where Second Harvest Food Bank was honored with the Foundation Award and Andrew Duhon received the President’s Award.
Since 1992, the Lafayette Public Library Foundation has purchased over 10,000 books for our libraries through private donations. Through the endowment program, the foundation has established a continuous, long-term revenue stream for the purchase of new books and media for the library.
The Foundation is currently focused on educating the community on the many services offered by the public library system. With a 1.8 mill property tax renewal on the October 9, 2021 ballot, which raises approximately $4 million a year, Discover Lafayette is proud to share the many ways our public libraries sustain our quality of life. We also want to inform the public on the importance of adequate funding and acknowledge the many volunteers who work to maintain this community asset. We thank Joan and Andrew, along with their peers, for the selfless time they give to our library system.
The Lafayette Public Library System has nine locations to serve the citizens of Lafayette Parish. People of all ages and demographics utilize the library daily and enjoy its free Wi-Fi, meeting spaces, and of course, the ability to check out books and digital resources. Makerspaces and Tech Labs offer the use of 3D printers and classes in digital media, paper and textile arts, electronics, and fabrication. Adults can receive free assistance from library staff in crafting or updating their resumes.
During 2018-2019, over 1 million people visited the Lafayette Public libraries, 13,338 library cards were issued, and over 2 million materials were checked out (including digital resources). During the COVID shutdown, people flocked to the libraries to use to take advantage of the free computers and Wi-Fi; the volume of materials checked out went up and the library responded to the crisis by offering a 23% increase in programming.
Of course, while the library offers ‘free’ services and resources to the public, its annual budget of $12 million must be met to sustain operations. Annual tax revenue is now approximately $11 million, resulting in a $1 million shortfall each year.
Just a few short years ago, the library’s reserve fund was flush with a balance of $40 million. Plans were underway to build a much-needed Northeast Lafayette Parish Regional Library with the intent to tie services into underperforming schools such as Northside High, JW Faulk, and NP Moss. Additions to public meeting space at regional libraries were in the works. The Board of Control had endeavored to be good stewards with the public funds, building four new regional libraries with a combination of cash and bond revenues while maintaining a healthy cash reserve for future expansions and improvements.
Then in the spring of 2018, a library tax renewal of 1.48 mils was defeated, resulting in a loss of $3 million per year in annual revenue. An additional $10 million of the reserve fund was redirected to drainage and the parks system. The gap between revenues and expenditures has continued to grow and the library’s reserve fund now stands at $7 million. If this downward trend continues, some hard choices in programming and the number of libraries that can remain open will have to be made.
Our library system is an investment in the quality of life for all of us at a minimum cost each year in taxes. The foundation has created a place online where citizens can calculate how much the October 9 tax renewal will cost them. Families with a home valued at $400,000 will pay only $59.80 per year for this renewal. Those who own a home valued at $75,000 with a homestead exemption will face no additional taxes. We encourage all who have the opportunity to vote on this important initiative to educate themselves and get the facts so they may make an informed decision on October 9, 2021, election day.
We would also like to thank the other community volunteers who endeavor to sustain our library system. The Lafayette Public Library Board of Control is the governing body for the Lafayette Public Library. The Library Board is comprised of residents of Lafayette Parish who are appointed by the Lafayette Parish Council and the Mayor-President to serve five-year terms of office. For over 30 years, the Friends of the Lafayette Public Library, a nonprofit, volunteer organization, has been supporting and promoting the Lafayette Public Library System, its programs, and its projects by providing monies for library equipment and funds for special library projects and performances. Most of the funds come from the Friend’s twice-annual book sales.