Library Funding 101

By Jeff Cann, ACLS Finance Director

As the Adams County Library System’s Finance Director, I frequently hear about a common misconception: “What do you even do? Aren’t the library’s finances managed by the County Controller’s office?” Well, no. Library workers aren’t Adams County employees. We’re a nonprofit, just like United Way or the Red Cross. The follow-up question is usually “So you need to fundraise raise all of your money?” The answer to that is sort of, most of it.

adams county library

Think of the library income like a pie. Taken from the 2022 budget, largest pie piece, by far, comes from local municipalities. 45% of our funding comes from local boroughs, townships and especially the county. There aren’t any individual taxes levied for library funding, but the various municipalities make annual budget appropriations to keep the library’s six branches operating.

The next largest source of funding comes from the state of Pennsylvania. This year, just over a quarter of our funding came from the Public Library Subsidy. This is awarded to all public Pennsylvania libraries that meet the standards in the Public Library Code. What standards? The state enforces requirements such as specific educational qualifications for library staff, designated hours of operations, the amount expended on library materials (such as books, DVDs, magazines, newspapers and electronic databases for public use) and accessibility (including physical and electronic access to library materials).

A tiny, but high-profile slice of our funding is earned income. This includes fines for overdue or lost items, reimbursement by patrons for printing and copying, and the money we make from our annual events—our June Funfest and our autumn Signature Event author visit. 

Like many long-living nonprofits, the library draws income from various investments and endowments. These include our Named Endowments (money set aside by donors to annually fund specific items in perpetuity), distributions from investment accounts built by large gifts and bequests over our seventy-seven-year history, and income from several beneficial trusts established by philanthropists to provide permanent funding to area nonprofits. These investments fuel up to 11% of our annual funding.

The rest of our funds are raised from individual donors, businesses and grant-making foundations. This income has risen steadily over the past ten years and now accounts for about 15% of our budgeted revenue. These contributions include donations to buy a book in honor of a loved one (this can be done via our website), keep-the-change transactions at our circulation desks, responses to our annual appeal, and even a quarter dropped in a dinosaur bank in the children’s area of your local branch.

Our support comes from all corners of the county. The generosity of county residents, municipalities and grant-makers has created a county-wide library system we can all be proud of. If you would like to help fund a piece of this pie, check out the ‘support the library’ tab of our website— It lists all the ways you can help.

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