Library directors across Plymouth County would like an increase in dollars from the county to support rural library services.
Sue Kroesche, Le Mars Public Library director, presented the 2013-14 budget request to the county board of supervisors Tuesday.
She asked the supervisors to consider that statewide the average rural service funding is about $103,000 -- $28,000 more than Plymouth County's current allocation.
The board of supervisors provided $75,000 to the five public libraries for the current 2012-13 fiscal year.
Half of those taxpayer dollars is divided evenly among the libraries with the other one-half allocated based on each county's rural circulation numbers.
Kroesche told the supervisors library directors could use a large increase just to catch up to the statewide average.
"But you know the averages and medians don't tell the story," she said. "I want to make some above average suggestions to help your thinking about library funding."
Kroesche told the supervisors that instead of focusing on the needs of the county libraries, she would talk about patrons' needs.
"One of the biggest trends we're seeing these days are enormous changes in technology and the way people are getting their information," Kroesche said.
For example in addition to using printed materials at the library, more and more patrons are asking for information they can access digitally, she said.
Kroesche explained the increase in digital users means more dollars need to be invested in digitally-accessed materials.
"Costs are higher because we still will maintain our physical collection. Books will not go away," she said. "But we need funds for things like magazines accessed online."
Other digital media might include language learning online, e-books, which are electronic versions of a printed book readable on digital devices, research databases like Encyclopedia Britannica or World Book, which are no longer being printed, Kroesche explained.
She said all of those resources "are essential in helping patrons in Plymouth County keep up with the rest of the world."
The libraries offer programming, classes and activities that benefit people of all ages, from youth summer reading programs to computer classes to job hunting portals, Kroesche said.
She asked that the supervisors consider where the libraries could use the additional dollars they are requesting.
For example, the money could add new/updated computers, help secure databases, provide more e-content, such as e-books, and create additional space to meet patrons' needs, Kroesche said.
She challenged the board of supervisors to increase local libraries' funding to the $103,000 state average "as a bold statement" in support of the welfare of the libraries.
"Above all, be bold in your funding statement," Kroesche said. "Your funding of libraries sends a message that you believe Plymouth County is better off with strong libraries."
The county board of supervisors did not make any decisions Tuesday concerning the library directors' request.
The supervisors will consider the proposal early next year during 2013-14 budget discussions.