published Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Grass-roots effort emerges for Dade County library

Marshana Sharp, left, education coordinator and manager at the Dade County Library, utilizes the help of her nephew, Ryan Warren, center, and son, Brandon Sharp, to unpack boxes on her day off Monday.
Marshana Sharp, left, education coordinator and manager at the Dade County Library, utilizes the help of her nephew, Ryan Warren, center, and son, Brandon Sharp, to unpack boxes on her day off Monday.
Photo by Tim Barber.

TEMPORARY CLOSURE

The Dade County Public Library will close for two weeks beginning Saturday to move into its newly renovated facility on Court Street.

CHECK OUT HELP FOR LIBRARY

A website has been established at savedadelibrary.org to receive online donations. At least for the initial days of fundraising, donations also will be accepted at the WKWN radio station at 12544 N. Main St. in Trenton. For more information, contact Marshana Sharp at the library at 706-657-7557 or Evan Stone at WKWN at 706-657-7594 or 423-642-9596.

An on-air challenge issued by Dade County, Ga., school board chairwoman Carolyn Bradford has launched a grassroots campaign to raise money for the local public library.

The fundraising effort comes in the wake of a vote by the school board Monday night not to fund the facility. To deal with the loss of money, Dade County Public Library will only be open for 20 hours a week.

Evan Stone, owner of Trenton-based radio stations WKWN-AM and FM, said he was about 30 minutes into his show Tuesday morning when Bradford arrived with a $100 donation in hand for the library.

"She said this is for the library and she's challenging anyone who has the money to give to give to the library," Stone said. "In just a little while, [Superintendent] Shawn Tobin came by and gave me a check for $100."

Library Manager Marshana Sharp said donations poured in, including one late Tuesday for $500.

"If we can raise -- I think it's $18,862 to be exact -- we can go back to being open 30 hours a week," Sharp said.

Stone said fundraising efforts are ongoing and will continue Monday during programming on local cable Channel 7 in Trenton, Ga., starting at 8 p.m.

The groundswell of financial support followed Monday night's school board vote not to include last year's $39,000 library contribution in the school system budget.

Bradford said Wednesday that she felt compelled to do something personally because "I just knew that the schools just could not do what they were asking."

"I just felt like I wanted to do that," she said. "Our community has always been a community that has always pulled together."

Tobin said he was happy to show his personal support and he hopes library fans follow suit if they are able.

The sudden show of support "makes me cry," an emotional Sharp said Wednesday morning.

"I'm so thankful. I can't tell them how much I'm thankful for the community," she said. "I knew a lot of people cared about the library but the level of passion has touched me. You can't really put it into words."

Cherokee Regional Library Director Lecia Eubanks said she was proud of local folks and the donations, but the effort still might not meet long-term needs.

"That will be fine for this fiscal year, but next year they're going to be looking for government support," Eubanks said.

Under Georgia Public Library Service guidelines, local, tax-based support is required in order for state funding to be provided.

While Dade County government gives $64,800 and the city of Trenton kicks in $30,000, those amounts aren't guaranteed either because tough economic times, Eubanks said.

Dade County has only three entities with taxing authority and all three should take some financial responsibility for the library, she said.

If the library is forced to close, Dade would be the only county in Georgia without a public library, Deputy State Librarian Julie Walker said earlier this week.

Board members asked Eubanks on Monday about the library's "contingency plan," but she said that, as a public facility, the library relies on tax-based funding for operations.

Dade's July 31 election ballot has a question of whether the County Commission should fix library funding in its budget could lead to a "contingency plan," she said. If voters say the commission should put a fixed amount for the library in its annual budget, that could lay the groundwork for sufficient permanent funding, she said.

"The way we're funded locally is not working," Eubanks said. "I can't wait until the 31st."

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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