published Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

Funding cuts force LaFayette library to close on Saturdays


by Andy Johns
Lecia Eubanks, assistant director of the LaFayette Walker County Public Library, reshelves books in the children's section. 
Staff File Photo
Lecia Eubanks, assistant director of the LaFayette Walker County Public Library, reshelves books in the children's section. Staff File Photo
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Officials in the Cherokee Regional Library System told the system’s board Monday they will close the LaFayette-Walker County branch on Saturdays beginning Aug. 1 to compensate for funding cuts.

“If the money doesn’t come up to meet the services, the services have to come down to meet the money,” said Lecia Eubanks, director of the library system that oversees public libraries in Walker and Dade counties.

The Rossville branch could be next, Eubanks explained, with plans to close that building on Saturdays beginning Jan. 1.

Since 2008, the system has seen its state funding cut by 43 percent. While some local agencies are contributing a few thousand dollars more, Eubanks said the funding doesn’t keep up with rising costs.

Most notably, the Trenton City Commission planned to cut the library out of this year’s budget before scrambling to find $30,000 to keep it open. But they said the library shouldn’t count on the money in 2012.

The system is in the middle of construction projects at the LaFayette and Trenton libraries, but those expansions are financed through state programs with matching local dollars that can only be used for capital improvements and not operating expenses.

Eubanks is not the only local director grasping at diminishing funds.

The Dalton-Whitfield Public Library announced earlier this month it also will be closing an extra day a week, shuttering the doors on Mondays.

Joe Forsee, director of the Northwest Georgia Regional Library System, said the state cut $90,000 and Whitfield County trimmed its support by $26,000 in this year’s budget.

“Funding cuts for public libraries are not new, but this year’s cuts are more severe than ever,” he said in a news release. The system also is furloughing positions and freezing vacancies.

Some of those measures already are in place in Walker and Dade counties, where financial strain is not new for the system. Over the last several years, employees have seen their salaries frozen and their hours cut. The staff has limited the purchase of new books and technology.

“There are no hidden reserves, there’s nothing to save this library but local support,” she said. “This is the year I’m afraid we can’t continue.”

Libraries around the state are taking major hits. The Hall County Library System in northeast Georgia closed two branches July 1 because of funding cuts, according to the Gainesville Times. In April, Cobb County officials discussed closing 13 of 17 libraries in the county, before shifting cuts elsewhere after public outcry.

“Everybody is dealing with that,” said Gordon Baker, president elect of the Southeastern Library Association and dean of libraries at Clayton State University. “It’s a bad time.”

But Eubanks said she is hopeful the closures will be temporary. She is working with the Georgia Department of Labor to see if the LaFayette-Walker branch would qualify for a department program that gives money to temporarily hire two local residents put out of work by April’s tornadoes. She’s also lobbying Walker County Commissioner Bebe Heiskell for a dedicated percentage of the county’s property-tax millage rate or a flat fee tacked onto property taxes.

Heiskell said she had not yet determined the best way to pay for the county’s book collection, but said there was significant pressure to keep taxes low.

“I am listening to people who don’t want to pay any more money for anything,” she said. “People who are out of work don’t want to hear about a library.”

about Andy Johns...

Andy began working at the Times Free Press in July 2008 as a general assignment reporter before focusing on Northwest Georgia and Georgia politics in May of 2009. Before coming to the Times Free Press, Andy worked for the Anniston Star, the Rome News Tribune and the Campus Carrier at Berry College, where he graduated with a communications degree in 2006. He is pursuing a master’s degree in business administration at the University of Tennessee ...

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Wid said...

“People who are out of work don’t want to hear about a library.”

Here's a thought. Close the library on a weekday or two and keep it open on Saturday - now start a job hunting and resume` writing program - teach folks how to use [http://www.bls.gov/oco/] - teach them how to speak proper English, and to differentiate between "your" and "you're" so they don't present themselves as such ignorant hicks. They'll get better jobs, pay more taxes, and the library will improve along with general local Quality Of Life.

Ms. Eubanks, email me in private - the webmaster here should be able to relay a message, maybe I can be available to help tutor.

July 13, 2011 at 12:20 p.m.
sweetchick30707 said...

It's a shame that they can't get a couple people each day to volunteer their time to keep it open. Maybe even a couple volunteers to do some sort of classes there like Wid said. Maybe a free resume writing class, even a money management class and a coupon class. All volunteer taught to help the community. For an area with lots of churches that want to minister to the people of their town surely they could manage to find some volunteers to at least keep the library open.

July 13, 2011 at 3:16 p.m.
McRand said...

If these libraries were open late enough, like say, as Fayette county library is (9am-9pm M-T & 9am-9pm F-Sat) then they would actually serve as quality centers for research. However, hours are set, such as in Lafayette, Rossville, Chickamauga and Trenton, for example, that there is little quality time for serious research, especially considering both parents working now days, in most cases, which hampers transportation needs for after school research. It seems that these hours are more in line to accommodate the employees preferences rather than to be available for scholarly needs of students. The setup doesn't fare to well considering the "No child left behind" mantra, and the grade score averages that are in need for improvement in these locals. I tink, close on Wednesday and add a couple of hours to the other days, and keep Saturday. I feel that would be worthy of finding the funding. "Just saying"

LaFayette-Walker County Library Monday 9am – 6pm Tuesday 9am – 8pm Wednesday 9am – 6pm Thursday 1pm – 8pm Friday 9am – 5pm Saturday 9am – 12pm

Rossville Public Library Monday 9am – 6pm Tuesday 9am – 6pm Wednesday 9am – 6pm Thursday 1pm – 8pm Friday 9am – 5pm Saturday 9am – 12pm

Chickamauga Public Library Monday 9am – 6pm Tuesday 9am – 7pm Wednesday CLOSED Thursday 9am – 6pm Friday 9am – 2pm Saturday 9am – 12pm

Dade County Public Library Monday 9am – 6pm Tuesday 1pm – 8pm Wednesday 9am – 6pm Thursday 9am – 6pm Friday 9am – 5pm Saturday 9am – 12pm

July 13, 2011 at 4:28 p.m.
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