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Planning Wards Off Budget Woes

Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library

Innovation Summary

A looming budget decrease necessitated redesign of our organizational structure and our recruitment policies to create a future course that didn’t require layoffs and closures to accommodate the reduced budget. EVPL devised a multi-pronged effort to create the needed change without compromising customer service or staff job security.

Problem Statement

In 2008, those who were paying attention could forecast alarming budget difficulties over the next several years due to legislated tax caps and the country’s economic slide. The times of greatest anticipated strain were still in the distance, but EVPL Administration thought that a long-term effort begun early might avoid the worst effects of budget shortfalls – reduced hours/services, staff lay-offs and job insecurity. Those effects can greatly block an organization’s ability to fulfill its mission, especially during hard times, when the public needs us more than ever. EVPL needed to be proactive in reducing expenditures, including personnel expenditures, without reducing service or affecting our mission. We needed to start early and get everyone on board. This included those at the top – our Trustees and Directors, all of our staff – even part-time employees, and our support organizations such as the Public Library Friends.


The plan was crafted: • begin reducing personnel costs through attrition and restructuring • offer an early retirement plan in 2008, 2009, and 2010 • restructure administrative/management system to flatten it • realign branch system to pair each small neighborhood branch with a larger regional branch, combining staff and resources • regular evaluation and updating of existing positions • redesign recruitment process to include position review, allowing positions that are no longer relevant to be revamped into new positions in areas of greater need • align neighborhood branch days and hours of opening to those shown to be most desirable to the public, using polls and usage data • begin an internal leadership program to identify emerging leaders, train them in servant leadership and other areas, including some not traditionally attended by librarians, e.g. Consumer Electronics conferences, & the Louisville Idea Festival • foster the importance of technology not only in service to our community but also as a way to work smarter. One of the biggest challenges of this process was communicating budget concerns to all the employees at EVPL without undue stress or appearing threatening in any way. This was accomplished through meetings at every branch; specific meetings with the employees at the small neighborhood branches; and continued system-wide training on the need to embrace change at staff training days. Just as important today is constant and consistent communication. In all the things management says and does, we are communicating to employees what change we believe is needed and what we are doing to make that happen. By frequently communicating what we are doing, and why we are doing it, in non-threatening day-to-day communication we are reinforcing the need for the change and fostering buy-in.


We have flattened the organization from three associate director positions to one associate director. The current structure is CEO-Director and Chief Officer Planning & Operations, with an administrative leadership team consisting of Communications/Marketing, Business Office, IT, Programming/Partnerships and Human Resources/Organizational Development. The neighborhood/regional branch partnerships allow for full staffing at both locations with fewer staff. Neighborhood branches are open 38 hours a week instead of the previous 44. These locations are open Saturdays now, where they weren’t before, which met the needs of the community per their input. Through attrition and right-sizing our organization to match our customer and employee needs, we have reduced the overall personnel salary budget line by 4% - over $100,000 in 2009. That reduction has been followed by small increments of approximately $10,000 each year since. Compounding that over the years, reductions in our salary line are about $500,000. We have been able to provide small salary increases and improved ancillary benefits. EVPL has not been forced to reduce hours or days of operation and we have not had any personnel layoffs. No branches have been closed. We have added positions in public service, marketing/communications, business office and human resources which are needed for future growth. We have identified future leaders, and promoted from within, as well as hired externally. Thirty people have completed our leadership program with 10 more scheduled in 2012. We will also begin a formalized mentoring program as part of our leadership program and succession planning yet this year. We have a long way to go, but we are better positioned for relevance in the future. Our employees are more aware of what is happening system-wide. Staff is appreciative of the efforts that have gone into preserving jobs and maintaining our ability to continue making a positive difference in our community.