Thursday, February 4, 2010

Merger of City and County Library Create Multiple Externalties

The Minneapolis Public Library (MPL) merged with the Hennepin County Library (HCL) in 2008. From several years of reduced funding from budget cuts, MPL reduced hours and closed three branches. HCL has been able to prosper given their higher tax base. According to MPR, One hundred years ago, 90 percent of Hennepin County residents lived in Minneapolis. But now, two-thirds of the county's residents live outside Minneapolis. Their tax dollars go to the county, not the city. It was time for Hennepin County to come to the rescue of Minneapolis.

The merger with the Hennepin County Library created positive and negative externalities.

Library Collections

The merger gave the opportunity for residents to expand their library options. The MPL system has 15 branches and 2.2 million items; the suburban system has 26 branches and 1.9 million items. However, HCL is much more of a popular library, with 6.6 average copies per title, as opposed to MPL's 1.9 figure. Also, HCL has been able to buy nearly three times as many new items in the past year. However, this may make it more difficult for Hennepin County residents to check out books, as the demand for more popular books has dramatically increased.

In addition, the three city libraries that had closed for lack of funding have been reopened and two new suburban library buildings will open next year. The 41 libraries in the combined system now house the 12th largest public library collection in the nation.


The city would transfer $6.8 million a year initially to the county. The merged system, assuming no new initial spending, would have an increased budget of $75.6 million budget in its first year. However, suburban taxpayers are paying 62 percent. This has become more of a problem given the budget deficits. A recent Star Tribune article, reported that the merger is more difficult when considering how to distribute $18 million approved by city voters for library remodeling.

"Hennepin's 25 suburban libraries, the chart showed, would need $5.7 million over the next few years for maintenance, energy and lighting upgrades. On the other hand, the 16 Minneapolis libraries recently added to the county system were slated for $7.6 million in similar work." Taxpayers living outside of Minneapolis would be paying more money for improvements that they do not use.

1 comment:

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