On August 15, 2008, the Library transmitted its 2009 budget request to Erie County's Division of Budget, Management and Finance. This request was developed under the direction of the Library Board's Budget and Finance Committee pursuant to guidance provided in Resolution 2008-31, adopted in public session by the full Board of Trustees on July 17th.
In the past six months, the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library System has made great strides in re-establishing public services and improving access to collections after the devastating budget cuts of 2005 and 2006. Central and City Branch Libraries are now open 40 hours per week or more and all are open on Saturdays; prime evening and weekend hours have been restored to many suburban library schedules; and exciting new program initiatives are in the works putting our libraries at the center of community activities. This would not have been possible without the $1.6 million of restored funding allocated in the 2008 budget.
Our residents clearly welcome the changes: through June 2008, use of public access computers at B&ECP Libraries increased more than 47% and circulation of library material has increased more than 5% over the same period in 2007. At the flagship Central Library, year-to-date patron visits have increased 19% during the same period. Additionally, library patrons are saving gas by using the Library's request system more frequently to have needed books and other library material delivered to the library closest to their home. Through June, a year-to-date total of 30,868 boxes of library materials were shipped between facilities, a 16% increase over the same period in 2007.
We rely on the County's continued financial support to maintain the services our residents have demonstrated they want and need, especially in these times of economic uncertainty. We strive to be good stewards of public investment, and continually explore and implement cost-efficient improvements to deliver better services for our users and reduce costs. However successful these initiatives, we must still deal with the costs of increased use and demand with static or declining revenue from the State. It is absolutely essential for the funds allocated to the Library System in 2008 continue as the base budget for our operations. Rising benefit costs paid directly from the Library's operating budget and increased operational costs leave no room for budget reductions without severe cuts in service.
The B&ECPL System plays a key role in education, literacy, economic development and cultural tourism. We have collections of international and historical significance that need to be preserved, celebrated and shared with residents and visitors alike. I am looking to position our libraries as key destinations showcasing the one-of-a-kind treasures located within our stacks and our staff's expert knowledge of the collections and contents.
With the County's help, we can continue to leverage the public investment provided through the County by developing and enhancing private fundraising efforts. While this effort will take time to build and prosper, it will position B&ECPL as a beneficiary of philanthropic support and help to ensure future economic security and financial stability. I look forward to a progressive and successful year for the Library and the County, and to continue our positive relationship as we strive to bring essential services to our taxpayers.