Professional Troublemaker

Last week I was at the 2022 PLA Conference in Portland, Oregon.  Portland is so pretty from the air, with bloomed out cherry blossoms that provide splashes of pink to contrast the evergreens. But, as the plane lowers, you start to notice the harsh realities of a “Safe Sleep Policy” that, along with drug use, poverty, mental illness, etc. has a city littered with tents, make-shift shelters and trash.  My conference was fine, but the daily encounters with broken individuals, the concern and moments I felt fear and the shame for having it, plus the astronomical cost of everything, tainted the experience. 

Then I came home. The coming and going of my trip consisted of 22 hours on the road, in a plane or at an airport.  So, yep, you might be able to discern that I have not been in the best state of mind this week.  Monday, I was feeling pretty spent when I heard from someone that the “library has all the money.”  Hmmm, we do?  Well, that didn’t go over well, so much so that here I am, 3 days later still thinking about it.   

One of my many flaws is my need to be right.  Instead of allowing this person to just say their words and let it go, I have to “school” them.  I am assuming this person is referring to the ending cash General Fund that we list in our monthly board meeting minutes.  As of January 31, 2022, the balance was $500,887.03.  This money consists of our checking account balance, the tax revenue for current year (budgeted funds), prior years’ unspent funds, and a special building project fund.  We also have $293,154.06 in Certificates of Deposit that are not included in that previously mentioned balance.  I guess we do have all the money (insert snarky tone of voice). 

Our 2022 budget includes a total income of $462,762.60 (part of which is already in that half million figure I gave you, revenue comes in throughout the year with an ending amount predicted at the 462 amount).  The 2022 budgeted expenses total $460,887.40: Admin/Management – $18,100, Building & Equipment – $56,960, Payroll – $231,590 (salary total, $182,000 for 5 FTE and 2 PT), Utilities – $21,000, Library Materials – $46,685, Gift disbursement – $1,500 and Lease – $85,052.40.  Missouri State Standards for Public Libraries includes a section on Finances including Reserves.  ALL libraries should have capital reserve funds for future needs such as maintaining facilities and the replacement of furniture and equipment.   ENHANCED libraries should have capital reserves equal to or greater than 30% of their annual operating budget, EXEMPLARY 50%.  ALL libraries should maintain operational reserve funds to cover the gap between the fiscal year and receipt of tax income.  ENHANCED libraries should maintain operational reserves for emergencies and unforeseen circumstance, EXEMPLARY 75% of annual budget. 

We have very little leeway in our approved budget.  Our operational reserves total $129,304.70 (which is included in that half million amount) and would cover 28% of our annual budget.  Our capital reserves are our CDs and would cover 63% of our annual budget.  What we have is not “all” the money, but what actually makes us enhanced in one area, exemplary in the other.  What we have is current and past board members/directors that were and are good stewards of your tax money.  Tax money based on a 1946 levy, which by the way is a standard ALL libraries must have, but there is heated discussion that this is a weak requirement.  Why, because of the 140 publicly funded libraries in Missouri, only 17 have this bare minimum rate of 10 cents.

Geez, I have a real problem.  It would have been so much easier to let that comment go.  My PLA experience influenced my 3 paragraph “schooling”, not just because I was tired and grouchy, but because of our opening speaker.  Luvvie Ajayi Jones, author of “I’m Judging You”, “Professional Troublemaker” and her most recent book, “Rising Troublemakers”, did exactly that, inspired me to embrace my “flaw” of being, you guessed it, a troublemaker.  She mentioned specifically how important it is to speak your truth in the room.  How many times do we sit quiet, too afraid to speak, not wanting to feel discomforted and then leave the room disappointed in ourselves? Or do we let someone else do all the truth telling, do we wait for the “designated” troublemaker to take care of things?  Boo, not this troublemaker.