Kerrville, Texas, is best known as the home of North America’s longest continuously-running music festival, the Kerrville Folk Festival, which welcomes over 30,000 visitors from around the world every year. The semi-rural community is also the official Capital of Texas Hill Country and serves its 29,000 residents from the Butt-Holdsworth Library located directly on the beautiful Guadalupe River in the heart of downtown.
Making a modern library affordable
Originally built in 1967, the Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library was completely renovated in 2012 and outfitted with state-of-the-art technology. However, ten years later, library technology had advanced considerably, but Butt-Holdsworth was still using the same equipment.
“Technology moves so fast these days,” says Danielle Brigati, Library Director. “Five years on a piece of equipment and it’s practically out of date. The first-generation selfChecks and security gates we had were reaching the end of their lifespan, and they were big and clunky compared to modern equipment.”
The library knew they needed to upgrade but replacing library technology is an expensive proposition, historically requiring a large capital outlay.
“It’s a big chunk of change,” says Brigati. “When you can roll it into a renovation, it can be easier since you’re refreshing the entire building. But funding a refresh of equipment outside of a renovation is harder.”
That’s why Butt-Holdsworth was so excited to learn about Bibliotheca’s Solution as a Service (SaaS) purchasing model. The model allows libraries to purchase solutions on a subscription basis, spreading the cost of the new equipment over several years. It includes all service, support, and updates and allows libraries to refresh again at the end of the contract term.
“For us, it was a win on all sides of the equation,” says Brigati. “SaaS allows us to implement top-of-the-line technology now with the flexibility of scalability and equity in the long term. By spreading the payments over five years, we are able to benefit from Bibliotheca’s technology, service, and maintenance without having to budget for a large expense. My IT department enjoys SaaS models because they are working with state of the art equipment and can easily integrate new technologies with existing workflows.”
Because SaaS spreads the cost of new equipment over several years, the annual outlay is only a fraction of the traditional purchase price. This, in turn, frees library funds for additional purchases or library initiatives that would be unaffordable under the capital expense model.
The affordability of the subscription allowed Butt-Holdsworth to maximize their investment and improve efficiency by adding on the mobile inventory wand and the mobile digital library assistant.
“It’s going to be so much easier for my staff to perform their daily functions, which frees them up to do more programming, more outreach, and more homebound delivery,” says Brigati. “Using the SaaS model allowed us to get more than just the essential equipment.”
No longer a capital expense
Kerrville is lucky enough to have a very active Friends of the Library group that has amassed significant capital from bequeathed estates. Even so, deducting tens of thousands of dollars at once, especially in a down market, drains future resources. The SaaS model allowed Brigati to secure the funding the library needed for upgrades while protecting future funding.
“For me, it was going to my Friends and saying, ‘This allows you to continue making interest on the money that you have while we use just a little at a time,’” she says. “Meanwhile, we’re going to have brand new equipment, the best experience for our patrons, and a much better reporting system with real-time stats and administrative functions at our fingertips.”
The Friends of the Library agreed wholeheartedly. The legal team drew up a contract between the city and the Friends group to ensure the annual funding would be available for the next five years, even if leadership changed.
“When it was time to go to the city council, it was a very easy conversation,” says Brigati. “I could go into the meeting with a presentation and explain that we need to have new equipment, but it isn’t a major capital expense. I’ve already secured the funding, and it isn’t costing taxpayers anything.”
Through Brigati was able to secure funding from outside the city coffers, she has advice for libraries working under a more traditional model. Communication, she says, is paramount.
“Sit down, take an hour, explain the whole process,” she says. “If a municipality understands the process, they’re going to buy into it because it allows them to either retain some of the money while still getting the benefit of the new equipment or invest the residual funds in more solutions or other library initiatives.
“I think sometimes we get stuck doing the same thing in the same way because we’re comfortable with it. But if a library director can sit down with the people above her and say, ‘I want to show you what this means for us and what this means for the future,’ and present some testimonials from benchmark cities that have already adopted the model, it can make a lot of difference.
“Reach out to other finance departments, reach out to other libraries that are using the SaaS model. Getting it done is really a matter of having a lot of conversations.”
Scalable for changing needs
The SaaS model provides much-needed flexibility for libraries. Solutions can be added at any time, and libraries have the option to completely refresh equipment at the end of the term.
“Covid showed us how fast things can change for libraries and how important things like mobile technology can become,” says Brigati. “What I really like is the scalability and being able to go back a year from now and say what else do you have? What do you see coming up? Libraries are not a one-and-done. We have to ask ourselves, where do we need to be? Where do we see library service going? What other things can we add to make the customer’s experience that much easier? How can we stay relevant or adapt in this changing market? The SaaS model means that we can keep our eye on emerging technologies, and in 5 years if I want a complete upgrade, we can revisit. If we’re happy with the equipment we have and we don’t feel the need to replace anything, we can keep what we’ve got.”
Butts-Holdsworth is already looking at adding remoteLockers to their service offering.
“HEB grocery stores have been largely involved in our library. Putting a remoteLocker in the foyer of a store would be great for us,” says Brigati. “The busy mom with three kids would be able to stop at the supermarket after school, pick up groceries, then stop at the remoteLocker, check out some items for the kids or a movie to watch on movie night, and go home. She doesn’t even have to walk into our building to be a library user.”
“We’re the only library within this area, and I want to be a mainstream, modern, cutting-edge, state-of-the-art library. I always want us to look like we’re ahead of the game, not behind the game. We need to be looking at the future.”
I personally think Bibliotheca’s SaaS model is a great solution because I can grow my technology at the pace our patrons and staff need it. It allows me a great amount of flexibility, and instead of paying to service a one-time purchase, I am able to integrate that payment into one subscription that will address all our needs. I’ve enjoyed working with Bibliotheca and found the company responsive, customer-service oriented, and thoroughly professional. If I could make a recommendation to a library that was considering different options, I would highly recommend working with Bibliotheca and the SaaS model – it makes sense both from a financial perspective and from a library perspective.”
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