The Future of the Library Task Force presented its final recommendations to the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners and the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Board of Trustees on Monday. It concluded that the library was not overfunded in the past few years, and that the level of service and costs are on par with similar-sized cities.

The task force also recommended that if the library cannot find an extra $2 million in its next budget, staff from some of the branches could be shifted to the regional libraries to allow for more hours of service. For Mint Hill, it could mean closing the library if the county can’t come up with the funding to hire more employees for regional branches.

Perhaps the elephant in the room is the ImaginOn library and theater in downtown Charlotte which takes up 12 percent of the library’s budget each year.  ImaginOn houses the children’s library that used to be in the Main library . The library shares the space with Children’s Theater of Charlotte. In a survey conducted by the task force, only 3 percent of those who responded said they visited ImaginOn the most in the last year. By contrast, 5 percent of those polled in the county said that Mint Hill, which receives considerably less funding, was the library they most visited last year.

Other findings from the Task Force:

• The Library should be funded at $27.89-$28.66 per capita for FY 2011-2012, based on average per capita library funding of 13 peer communities.
• The Library should focus its resources on providing Basic Library Services.
• The Library should use volunteers to provide no less than 5% of total staffing hours required to provide Basic Library Services.
• The County Manager or his designee will serve on the Library Board as a non-voting, ex officio member.