Charlotte Mecklenburg Library funding stabilizes, more hours to be restored

The Charlotte Mecklenburg Library budget is up by more than $800,000 for the coming fiscal year after suffering a larger reduction in funding during the recession than many of its peer library systems around the country. The increased funding will allow the restoration of Sunday hours at six regional branches during the coming school year.  

Budget cuts experienced by the library in recent years led to workforce reductions and a decrease in hours and services at all locations. Only the Main Library and ImaginOn (both uptown) have maintained Sunday hours. For residents who need to access the library on Sunday, there is good news in the near future.

The Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners budget, approved in June for the 2012-2013 fiscal year, includes $811,000 in additional funding for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. This will allow Sunday hours to be restored at these branches: Beatties Ford Road, Independence, Morrison, North County, South County and University City from September 9,2012, until May 26, 2013 (click here or on map image for an interactive map for all branches with fall hours of operation).

Reinstating Sunday hours at regional branches was recommended by the Future of the Library Task Force. The UNC Charlotte Urban Institute supported the task force mission by collecting and presenting information that compared the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library's funding to 13 peer communities around the country. 

As recently as 2008, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library had the third highest general fund revenue (about $39.4 million) of this group of peer libraries. Of that group, Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library and Jacksonville (Fla.) Public Library were numbers one and two, respectively, in general fund revenue (see chart below). By 2012, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library’s general fund revenue (about $26.8 million) moved closer to the middle of the pack. General fund revenue allocated by their local government is the primary source of funding for public libraries.

Source: UNC Charlotte Urban Institute (From library systems or their local government’s budget reports) Note: for a list of official names for all libraries see end of article. 

The second graph (below) shows the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library and its 13 peer library systems' general fund revenue on a per capita basis.  For Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, the General Fund revenue per capita decreased from $40.86 in fiscal year 2008 to $28.98 in fiscal year 2012, an $11.88 reduction per resident compared to five years ago.

Source: UNC Charlotte Urban Institute (From library systems or their local government’s budget reports)

Charlotte's funding decline from the 2011 to 2012 fiscal year shown in the graphs above would have been greater if the county had not decided to restore two million dollars of funding in the 2012 fiscal year. According to Vick Phillips, the library's CEO, “The initial (UNC Charlotte) Urban Institute study of per capita funding was a critical component of the Task Force’s funding recommendations. It demonstrated clearly that the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library had suffered more severe cuts than its peers." Mr. Phillips noted that the update of that initial report, recently completed for the 2012-2013 fiscal year budget, showed that Charlotte had moved from being a leader in library funding to the middle of its peer group. Mr. Phillips added, "This knowledge may have also influenced County Manager Harry Jones, as he recommended additional funding again for fiscal year 13—this time to restore Sunday hours to those same six regional branches."

A new strategic plan for the library is under way for the coming fiscal year. As the community continues to work together for improved ways to provide library service, Mr. Phillips concluded, “this objective empirical data has been of tremendous value in the recovery of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library from the impact of the Great Recession.”

-- Eric Caratao

Update of the 2011 UNC Charlotte Urban Institute report to the Future of the Library Task Force (released March 2012)

Related article on this site (with links to other reports and data)

For more information about the Future of the Library Task Force

The Charlotte Mecklenburg Library website:


Official names of library systems listed in charts:
Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System (Atlanta, Ga.)
Austin Public Library (Austin, Texas)

Baltimore County Public Library (Baltimore Md.)
Charlotte Mecklenburg Library (Charlotte, N.C.)
Dallas Public Library
(Dallas, Texas)
Durham County Public Library (Durham, N.C.)
Forsyth County Public Library (Winston-Salem, N.C.)
Greensboro Public Library (Greensboro, N.C.)
Jacksonville, Fla. Public Library

Memphis/Shelby County Public Library & Info Ctr. (Memphis, Tenn.)
Nashville Public Library (Nashville, Tenn.)
Orange County Library System (Orlando, Fla.)
Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library (Tampa, Fla.)
Wake County Public Library (Raleigh, N.C.)