Not-for-profits are businesses, too, my friend.
They have to balance their budget and make payroll, they pay employee taxes for Social Security and Medicare. They have customers to tend, and snow must be shoveled off the sidewalks.
In other words, they have to work to be successful, just as with any for-profit company.
And NFPs, just like for-profits, need to keep up with the times to stay alive.
I’m reminded of this every time I walk by the ever-growing Cedar Rapids Public Library, that bustling corner of construction across from Greene Square Park downtown.
CRPL Director Bob Pasicznyuk told reporter Rick Smith for a Business 380 centerpiece story last month that the new library — a $46 million project — will spend approximately a half-million dollars for electronic content. That will be for some 100 e-readers to loan out to patrons.
The CRPL also will boast the wherewithal to be able to stream movies.
The reason for all this “e” paraphernalia, Pasicznyuk noted, was for the CRPL to stay relevant for its customers.
And not solely for the loyalists who’ve made their way to its temporary quarters at Westdale Mall — but also for the folk who’ve come to expect anything they might desire to be available at their fingertips. Literally.
More important, Pasicznyuk is very aware of how misguided the notion would be to attempt to replace everything that was housed on the shelves of the old CRPL before the 2008 flood sacked and pillaged its holdings.
“For us to carry a 1934 book on mosquitoes for the next 20 years, when no one checks it out, is a huge cost maintaining it,” he said. “If you come in, we can get it from Harvard.”
In other words, what a successful library needed in 2008 in terms of materials, equipment and staff skills isn’t necessarily what it will want to have on offer in 2013, when the doors open at CRPL’s new location. And that’s certainly not what it’ll want to have in the years to come.
But it’s not simply a matter of erecting a shiny new building and doing some clever planning (as if there’s anything “simple” about all this).
Many publishers, with only a couple of exceptions, are being more than stingy about sharing their new toys with libraries.
After all, they reason, every book checked out from a library (e-checked? Is that a word yet?) is one less a publisher will sell.
This is not a new dispute: The debate over libraries loaning printed books, thereby potentially eliminating a paying customer, has been going on since, well, as long as there have been libraries.
Blame it on Benjamin Franklin.
And as early as 1885 when a library would ban one of his novels — usually “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” — Mark Twain would delight in what he saw as free advertising.
“What do we do with that?” Pasicznyuk wondered, questioning how such a publishing strategy affects families who can’t afford an e-book.
“It starts a stratification of society that libraries have worked against for more than a century,” he told The Gazette’s Smith.
Planning for the future is a tough nut for any business, for-profit or otherwise.