Friends of the Library: The Library and Newspapers

Newspapers and the library

Newspapers and the library

Alan Albarran

We are asking all members of the Robson Ranch community to help us in making important decisions regarding what type of newspapers we should provide in our local Robson Ranch Library. In short, you will soon be hearing about a brief survey Friends of the Library (FOL) is launching via HOA emails and GroupWorks, and we ask that you take a few minutes to participate in this important process.

If you were a library user prior to the COVID shutdown last year, you will recall the library offered a few print newspapers to the community—specifically the Denton Record-Chronicle, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram was also available thanks to a donation from a member. Some of the papers were also available digitally on the library computers.

After the shutdown ended and the library reopened, it was under very strict protocols, including no physical media in the form of newspapers and magazines. At that point, all the computers were set up for digital access for the four newspapers for residents to use.

Changing our subscriptions to digital-only saved a lot of money. Newspaper subscriptions have risen for years and will continue to do so. This is due to the loss of subscribers, the loss of advertisers, and the rising cost of newsprint and distribution (getting the paper delivered to physical locations).

In 2018-19, the FOL spent approximately 54% of its budget on print subscriptions. Moving to digital only, our costs for newspapers are around $85 a month or a little over $1,000 a year. The subscriptions still take one-third of our budget. If we were to bring back print editions our costs would soar and over time would likely prove unsustainable and force us to either cut subscriptions or raise dues. There are strong feelings on both sides of this issue.

FOL operates on two sources of income: memberships (currently $10 a person) and donations. We have averaged about 300 members the past two years, so our annual income is about $3,000.

This is the dilemma we face as officers in FOL, and why we need your input on this survey. We don’t have good data on how many people use the newspapers in the library, or the level of demand.

The library has many needs and operates with limited funds. We want to help the library grow and provide the things it needs to better serve its users. Our FOL budget is small, and we want to use it wisely.

Please take a few minutes to complete the survey once it is available. If you would like to comment on this situation, contact me at [email protected] and I will share your responses with our officers.

Thank you for taking time to read this column and understand this issue.