For most of the past three decades, B&ECPL has operated under the constraints imposed by Erie County's struggling economy and decreasing population. Under the 2006 proposed County budget, full-time B&ECPL staffing over the period will have DECREASED 358 positions and 62%, while Erie County's population decreased from 1,113,491 in the 1970 census to 950,265 in the 2000 census, a 15% reduction. As the graphical chart below shows, while reductions impacted all areas, the proportion of reductions varied to reflect population shifts within the County.
This has required constant evaluation of the mix and methods of service delivery as well as the staffing levels required to cost-effectively provide those services. This has included applying technology, conducting process improvement studies and aggressively managing turnover to evaluate and reclassify/redeploy vacated positions to meet library users' changing needs.
This era has seen the dramatic shift from a paper-based to an electronic-based information society. Unknown in the 1970s, computer use in libraries is now a staple, with almost 400,000 registered public use computer sessions in 2004. The library transitioned from manual card catalogs listing only the items available at an individual location to a fully automated, comprehensive library information system with full graphical, high-speed access to the Internet provided at each library. This shift has not been at the expense of other library materials. Quite the contrary, circulation of library materials nearly doubled from 4,646,907 in 1975 to 9,175,635 in 2004.
Redeployment/reclassification of existing positions allowed the Library to consolidate System-wide telephone, email and fax-based reference services and expand the hours they are available without increasing overall staff counts. This virtual service point, known as "e-Branch", provides convenient access to library users regardless of where in Erie County they live, work or go to school. In terms of circulation, the Central Library based e-Branch became the third busiest location in 2004.
The library will continue to aggressively manage personnel resources and the number of service locations to provide quality library services within the limits of future County resources and public financial support.