Addressing Concerns Regarding the New Library

Yes, there are arguments around town against building a new library. Here are some and why we still think a new library is the best option:


Concern #1: If they build a new library, will you borrow more books?  No?  Then what’s the real, tangible, $30 million benefit to you, the taxpayer?

Response: There are multiple studies done that show use of a public library does increase when a new building is built.  There are a lot of really good studies on

Notable recent reports on this very topic include two sources:

Conclusion:  “there’s empirical evidence that usage tracks investment.  If libraries receive more public funds, more people use them.  And if governments invest less in its libraries (as they have since 2009), fewer people visit…”


Concern #2: Because of technology, library use is declining.  Daily traffic is down 24% from the peak.  Circulation is down 22%.  The Ames reading room is used on 34% of each day. Why expand if usage is down?


  • See above – the statement that “technology” is causing a decline in Library usage is just plain wrong
  • Per the studies cited in #1, there is a national trend of library use going down.  This is not the first time this has happened.  Library use, ebbs & flows.  The fact is that we are used more today than we were 20 years ago.
  • To obtain the figures about daily traffic (-24%) & circulation (-22%), the “peak” to date was used and compared those numbers to the FY 15/16 numbers.  Peak for door count was FY 09/10 and Peak for circulation was 4/30/11.
  • In the past 20 years
    • The population of Crystal Lake has increased 46% (28,000 to 40,743)
    • The circulation of the Crystal Lake Public Library has increased 212% (281,000 to 878,000)
    • The size of the Library building has not changed – 40,000 sq. feet
  • The Ames Meeting (not “reading”) room is not used 100% of the time we are open. Do you know of any space, be it your home, a library, even a school that is used 100% of the time? The demand for meeting space in Crystal Lake is significant.  People are turned away daily.  People need meeting spaces when they are not working – mostly nights during the week.  The Ames Meeting Room is also the only location for Library programs, thus further limiting availability of public meeting space.


Concern #3: At $400 a square foot, the cost is three times what commercial space costs to build.  Why overpay for a new building?


  • Carl Anderson, Chief Estimator at Gilbane Building Co., was contacted regarding this statement about “commercial space” to find out if it was even comparable to public library space.  Here are insights from Carl:
    • Commercial space is done much cheaper as the goal is to “build it, and rent it out” typically.  Commercial space is typically open floor/open office design.
    • A public library is a place of assembly and a long term investment.  
    • As a community, we plan to own, live in it, and operate it for generations.  Because of this, we build in efficiencies due to long term costs.
    • A Library project includes a higher density of walls, plus equipment & technology.
  • The square foot price of $400/sf was obtained by taking the total cost, $30.1 million, divided by 75,000 sq. ft.
  • Here are the actual facts on the building costs:
    • Building $16,083,629 $214.45/sf
    • Site/demolition    2,845,610 $37.94/sf
    • Furnishings/technology    4,042,670
    • Moving/temp Library       141,806
    • Prof services/Other    6,986,285


  • The total project budget includes additional technology, furniture & shelving.  A public project such as a Library also requires professionals such as Architects, Engineers, Surveyors, Construction Manager, etc. to be sure all building & safety codes are met.  In addition, this project budget includes one moving expense.


Concern #4: In fiscal 2015, the Crystal Lake Library spent $5.7 million, or $396 a family.  The Cary Library spent $176 a family.  The Woodstock Library spent $160.  Why does the Crystal Lake Library cost so much more?


    • This calculation was obtained by using all expenditures for FY 14/15, including
      • Operating, IMRF, FICA
      • Rental property management
      • Ames
      • Special Reserve (property purchases)
      • Gift & Memorial; CL Library Foundation
      • Per Capita Grant
    • This is not an apples to apples comparison.  In fact, when reporting to the State of Illinois (Illinois Public Library Annual Report aka IPLAR), these other types of fund expenditures are separated out as special funds.
    • Funds spent to operate the Library (Operating, IMRF, FICA):
      • FY 14/15 = $3,997,098 or $98.10 per capita


  • FY 15/16 = $4,130,602 or $101 per capita
  • It is not accurate to include other specialized funds in this analysis.  
  • It is more accurate to calculate a per capita cost than a “family” cost as the “size” of a family can vary from community to community.


Concern #5: This year’s property tax levy is 11.7 percent higher than last year’s levy.


  • Not sure what “this year’s” is in reference to, so let’s look at the last couple of years. The tax levy includes Operating and IMRF/FICA

Fiscal Year Tax Year Amount Change

    • FY14/15 2013 $4,381,319
    • FY15/16 2014 $4,458,822 +1.7%
    • FY16/17 2015 $4,494,507 +0.8%


Concern #6: This project would increase the library’s property tax by another 33%


  • The current tax rate is .458909
  • The proposed additional tax is .218 for 20 years


Concern #7: Almost 40% of what the library lends is movies and video games, and it costs them almost $6.50 to circulate the same movie you can get from Redbox for $1.50 and even less from Netflix.  Why has our library become a money-losing, taxpayer-financed competitor for Redbox at four times its price?


  • It was listed that the “amount of $” we spent in FY 15/16 was $5.3 million and cites the City of Crystal Lake budget as his source.  This is wrong information.
  • In FY 15/16, the Library spent $4,130,602 to operate [This amount does not include special funds as described above, not capital expenditures which are long term].  Source: IPLAR.
  • In FY 15/16 the Library circulated 878,040 items (source is Illinois Public Library Annual Report to the State Library).
  • This results in a per item circulated cost of $4.70 IF one assumes that operating costs only go towards circulation of materials.  We know this is not true.  The Library budget also covers:
  • 3,336 hours open to the public
  • 1,147 programs planned & given
  • 68,452 reference transactions
  • Dvd/Blu-ray/video game circulation in FY15/16 was 35% of CLPL’s total circulation, not 40% as claimed.  Moreover, the Crystal Lake Public Library is a popular materials library.  We respond to the needs and interests of our taxpayers.  There is no judgement how a person chooses to make use of public library resources.  The library provides materials of current interest.  Based on usage statistics, DVDs and video games are clearly of interest to our community.
  • To say a person could get Library materials through other sources is true.  One could simply buy books at Barnes & Noble or on Amazon.  That is not the point.  The purpose of a public library is to provide materials of interest to its community that the community shares – they share the cost to purchase & house and they share the use.  In this regard, the public library is the great recycler.
  • The selection at the Crystal Lake Public Library is much more broad than a Red Box with 33,643 DVD/Blu-rays and 2,565 video games (in a multitude of formats) to offer its patrons.
  • Cynthia Lopuszynski, Head of Adult Services, provided us with a much better example.  Using the DVD, Rocky, which cost $25 and circulated 137 times, the cost is $0.18 per circulation.  Rocky is also not even available through Red Box.


Concern: The trend in usage is sharply negative. Visits to the library are down 24 percent. Circulation is down 22 percent.

Response: See under Concern #2.


Concern: The Crystal Lake Library costs taxpayers $400 per family versus $176 in Cary and $160 in Woodstock.

Response: See under Concern #4.


Concern: Almost 40 percent of what the library lends is movies and video games, and last year it cost the taxpayers $6.50 per item circulated.

Response: See under Concern #7.


Concern: With the taxes for the new building, the cost could hit $10 per item circulated within two years.

Response: See under Concern #7 – faulty logic


Concern: So ask yourself a few questions. Will you borrow more books if they build a new library? If not, then what’s the real benefit to you, the taxpayer?

Response: See under Concern #1.


Concern: If library use is declining, why double the size of the library?

Response: See under Concern #2 – bullet #4


Concern: Why are we paying so much more for our library than other communities pay for the same services?

Response: See under Concern #4 – “Same” service – no comparison between Crystal Lake, Cary & Woodstock.


Concern: When did the library stop being about books and become a taxpayer-subsidized competitor for Redbox and Netflix?

Response: See under Concern #7 – A long, long time ago.  Don’t know that the public library was ever just about books!


Concern: Why does the library spend four times as much as Redbox to circulate a movie?

Response: See under Concern #7 – Faulty logic.  If one uses the Rocky example, we are 1/10 the cost.


Concern: And why does the City Council keep appointing cheerleaders to the library board instead of taxpayer watchdogs?

Response: The Library is fiscally conservative; we try to squeeze every cent we have.  It could be argued that someone who is not interested in a public library would not put in the many, many hours that our CLPL Board members do.


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