The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

Fair share: Can the metro network of libraries get more from users who live elsewhere?

In Cedar Rapids Library Board, City Hall, Marion on April 5, 2008 at 3:43 am

The Cedar Rapids Public Library Board of Directors got most of what it asked for in funding from the City Council for the new budget year beginning July 1, in part, because the board knew it couldn’t ask for much.

The library is hardly swimming in cash, though.

An indication of this is the board’s continuing interest in seeing if it can’t get those who live elsewhere but use the metro network of libraries – in Cedar Rapids, Marion and Hiawatha – to contribute more to the libraries’ operations.

Right now, the interest is not to get individuals to pay more. It is to get the jurisdictions they live in to pay more.

Tim Hill, library board president, said the first approach of the library board, which met this week, will be to continue to ask the Linn County Board of Supervisors to contribute more than it currently does to the consortium of libraries in the county.

“The county is way below city funding, which is low,” Hill said.

Secondly, the Cedar Rapids library board will lobby the consortium of libraries in the county to change the existing formula for how they divide up county funding that comes to the consortium.

“We provide more circulation for county residents than other libraries, so we should get more,” he said.

Convincing the little libraries in the county of this isn’t easily going to happen, Hill said.

The newest initial step to try to get more revenue from county residents who use the Cedar Rapids-Marion-Hiawatha library network has been initiated by the Marion Library Board, Hill pointed out.

The Cedar Rapids Library Board this week endorsed the Marion effort, Hill said.

Right now, the Marion Library Board alone has a contract to provide library services to growing neighbor, the city of Robins. Susan Kling, Marion’s library director, said her library board now is asking Robins to contribute more.

In trying to figure out how much more, Kling said her library board noted that Linn County now contributes $18.90 a year per rural resident in the county to the libraries in the county – the amount Cedar Rapids’ Hill said needs to be increased.

Kling said Robins now pays the Marion library $10,650 a year or $4.37 per Robins resident.

In the new fiscal year beginning July 1, the Marion Library Board has asked the city of Robins to contribute $22,000 with the expectation that in three years, a phased-in increase will have Robins paying $46,000 a year. That amount is at the $18.90-per-capita rate that Linn County now pays for library use by rural residents.

Interestingly, Kling said she and her library board have asked themselves why it has been that only the Marion library gets revenue from the city of Robins when Robins residents also use the Cedar Rapids and Hiawatha libraries. The Marion board estimates the Marion gets 50 percent of the Robins traffic with Cedar Rapids and Hiawatha, 25 percent each. As a result, Marion is proposing to share what Robins pays to Marion with the Cedar Rapids and Hiawatha libraries based on the percentage use of Robins residents.

“Why should we get the money when Robins uses all three libraries?” Kling said. “… We are a metro library network. This only makes sense.”

She noted that the Marion board only recently notified Robins of its proposal and has not yet heard a reply.

Cedar Rapids’ Hill said the Cedar Rapids Library Board also hopes to talk with the Linn County supervisors in the months ahead. No one on the board, he added, is talking about doing anything drastic.

“But it may come to the point where we decide we’re not going to provide services if we can’t get anywhere,” Hill said. “We’re not at that point.”

“… The general sentiment on the library board,” he continued, “is that Cedar Rapids residents shouldn’t pay more for library services than non-residents.”

Residents pay through property taxes.


  1. Cedar Rapids Library has established a very successful regional library system with Marion and Hiawatha. Frankly if all the Linn County communities could work together as well as the libraries we could see a more efficienct county regional government, Police, Fire, Road, etc working togrther….. saving money and knock off the turf issues,

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