Updating New Orleans City Council on New Orleans Public Library (NOPL) budget concerns May 2, city librarian Charles Brown warned councilmembers that its dwindling reserve funds could force closures, limited hours or construction delays. While NOPL receives $8 million annually to fund its 12 libraries and staff, the money comes from a millage; it does not receive any money from the city's general fund.
The library's reserve funds, which were built up during NOPL's limited post-Hurricane Katrina operation, are down to $4 million, and Brown anticipates losing $3 million over the next year.
NOPL's ambitions — and demand for services — have increased, from mobile libraries and homework assistance to more online database resources and ebooks. "I think there are so many opportunities we could have ... if we could take the library everywhere in the community," Brown said.
Brown said NOPL might have to close or delay construction of its Nora Navra branch in Treme, thought FEMA dollars already are in play to help build it. Regardless, Brown said, NOPL doesn't have ongoing capital to run the branch. "Just to be clear, we cannot let FEMA money be lost because of inaction," District E Councilman James Gray said. "That's an absolute worst-case scenario." — ALEX WOODWARD