Fall 2002

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The Annual Report, It's A Good Thing!

By Brenda Adams, Fiscal Officer, RCLS

Fall 2002 issue of Trustee

Editorial note: Annual reports are not only for library fiscal officers. They are also an important tool for library trustees who bear the ultimate responsibility for the operation of their library. The following article was prepared by the fiscal officer of the Ramapo-Catskill Library System and while clearly pointing up the value of the annual report will also clarify some of the areas that you will want to know about. Actually, an alternative title for this article might have been "Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Annual Reports But Were Afraid To Ask."   Enjoy!

The Annual Report supports local advocacy and marketing. It helps RCLS set priorities and establish policies that will support our member libraries. It provides the State Library and Division of Library Development with data to campaign for State policies and funding levels that will support local libraries and systems. And it provides essential data for the State to be eligible for LSTA (Federal) funding.

New York State requires all Chartered Libraries to file an annual report with the Division of Library Development (DLD). "Requires" is the key word. This report is the library's counterpart to Federal and State Personal Income and Corporate Tax Returns. It is mandatory, not optional. It is due at the same time every year. The information is based on the same time period every year. Providing accurate information is an obligation of being a Chartered Library and the responsibility of the Library Board. HATE it you may; DO IT you must!

For the 2001 reporting period, the blank report and instructions were available from DLD's website in November 2001. Access to the actual data entry website was delayed due to technical problems and when it became available navigation between the screens was slow. However, with an accurate draft copy in hand, it took about three hours to enter the data. Overall, this is a good program and it beats typing those old forms.

The ability to view the previous year's data makes it easier to determine if a note of explanation is needed and/or makes possible errors visible at a glance. Although correcting errors, listed in the edit check report, was time consuming and a source of anxiety for library staff this year, the vendor is aware of the software and hardware limitations and is working to resolve these problems. Please be optimistic, it is in their best interest to have these imperfections corrected before the 2002 reporting season.

Library Directors and other staff voiced their frustrations throughout the "reporting season" that the Annual Report is a waste of valuable staff time. They contend that State Aid to Libraries is insignificant and does not respond to the changes in their local environment yet they are required to complete this form every year. The intent of this article is to change the perception that the Annual Report has no value.

It is true that Local Library Service Aid (LLSA) remains at thirty-one cents ($.31) per capita for the library's chartered service area. It is also correct that 2002 LLSA payments to libraries will not reflect the 2000 Census. As a result each library serving an increased population will receive State support at less than $.31 per capita. Over the last 10 years the Ramapo Catskill Library System (RCLS) has experienced a population growth of almost ten percent (10%). The legislators' decision to maintain funding at the 2001 level has financial and service implications for all of us.

So, why are Annual Reports important?

The Annual Report For Public and Association Libraries is the only report that collects data about library activities, use, revenue and expenditures in an identical manner for every library in the State. Consistency in reporting yields authentic library statistics and financial data. That is, providing every library answers the questions accurately by applying the criteria as explained in the instructions.

Each library can transform the Annual Report data into an excellent marketing tool to demonstrate accountability and support a request for an increase in revenue. The Report provides a comparison between your current year's and previous years' activities. Once all of the member libraries submit their Annual Reports, RCLS prepares a statistical report with data for all member libraries that makes it possible for each library to compare itself to other libraries in the System.

Just a few numbers can have a major impact. They are population, total materials holdings, total circulation, library visits, quantity of staff, local revenue, total revenue, salaries and benefits paid to the staff, expenditures for materials, costs associated with electronic access and total expenditures. The data in the Annual Report makes it possible for you calculate the percent of change for each of these and to compare your library to other libraries within your county, area or to libraries of similar size.

Have you ever selected data from the Annual Report for comparison?

Common sense would argue that increases in population and cost of living would warrant additional funds, just to maintain current level of services. Technology is an integral component of today's libraries although it is costly to acquire and maintain. The data available to you makes it possible to develop reports that can show how your funds are spent, what the cost per capita is for circulation, automation or acquisition of materials. Using a spreadsheet application you will be able to prepare charts that would provide a graphical representation of the data.

At the System level, the comprehensive summary provides a view of the diversity among our member libraries. It enables policy development and efficient allocation of funds. The primary source of RCLS revenue is State Aid. New York State supports all the services we deliver, with the exception of the Automated Network Services (ANSER). ANSER is funded by a combination of RCLS funds and cost-recovery from the member libraries.

The Annual Report is also essential for the State Library and the Division of Library Development (DLD). Analyzing the Annual Reports allows DLD to document the inequities among the libraries of New York State and to use this data to campaign for policies and funding that provides benefits to all libraries and their patrons.

In addition to advocacy and public relations uses, throughout the year the DLD receives requests for information from the Commissioner of Education, the State Legislature, individual libraries and library systems, American Library Association (ALA), New York Library Association (NYLA), the Office of the State Comptroller, Civil Service, U.S. Senators and the press. Senator Schumer's office was supplied with detailed information regarding the needs of RCLS libraries in less than twenty-four hours. He used this information to promote support for libraries in Washington.

Certain information from the Annual Report is extracted and filed with the Federal-State Cooperative System (FSCS). This is a mandatory program that requires each State to file a federal report on library activity. This is the reason for the separate "Federal Edit Check." These Reports are used to allocate federal funding to the States, including Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grants. LSTA funds support the licensing, by the State Library, of electronic databases available at your library. These databases provide access to over 2,000 full text periodicals covering a wide-range of subjects, from health to business to current issues. The value of these databases, if the Ramapo Catskill Library System paid for them, would be over $150,000 per year.

Overcoming negative characteristics of the Annual Report requires the cooperative efforts of the Division of Library Development in streamlining the report, the Vendor in improving program functionality, and the Libraries by maintaining complete and accurate records. Yes, the Library must take responsibility also. Since the Report is due at the same time each year, each of you can plan ahead and prepare your data in advance. As always the staff at RCLS is ready, willing and able to answer your questions and help you complete the Report. Heads up! Some Libraries have already reached Annual Report "data collection" time.

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