Library director says 5 more percent will likely mean reduction in service

Last updated: July 22. 2014 4:48PM - 542 Views
By Chase Jordan cjordan@civitasmedia.com

Chase Jordan / Sampson IndependentRaynah Jones,6, enjoys searching for books at the Sampson-Clinton Public Library.
Chase Jordan / Sampson IndependentRaynah Jones,6, enjoys searching for books at the Sampson-Clinton Public Library.
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As people of all ages quietly strolled though the J.C. Holliday Library in Clinton and used computers, library director Heather Bonney sat in her office and recalled a moment when she supplied someone with books about resumes and job hunting.

Her help resulted in the visitor receiving a job.

“That’s what we do here,” she said proudly while discussing services provided through the Sampson-Clinton Public Library system.

She hopes those services continue in the near future. Like other county department heads, Bonney is not looking forward to a 5 percent slash currently being requested by the Sampson County Board of Commissioners, who will be in talks about those cuts today.

Bonney said their cutbacks would amount to more than that percentage.

The library is also funded by the state. In order to receive those funds, they have to meet something called Maintenance of Effort, which means they are required to maintain a certain level of funding. The last three years of funding from the county is averaged under the requirement.

“Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way with them,” Bonney said. “They can cut as much as they want to.”

When she became the director in 2005, the library received $145,000 from the state. Last year they received $118,000.

“So we have already been cut that much by the state,” Bonney stressed. “I was told this year not to expect even that.”

That amount may get decreased to $115,000.

With state and county cuts, the library is facing a reduction of more than $42,000. The total recommended budget for the library is a little over $861,000.

“You can’t cut $42,000 without it doing something to services,” the library director emphasized.

As example, she mentioned her $90,000 book budget, which is essential for any library.

“If you take $42,000 out of a $90,000 book budget, you don’t really have a whole lot left to spread around to five different libraries,” she pointed out. “You can’t keep the store open with the tellers at the cash registers and no bread on the shelves. Nobody is going to want to come there.”

Bonney said the library wants to provide the residents with quality, not quantity.

“We want to provide the best services, but we’re going have to pick what kind of services and provide them at the best quality,” she said of the potential cuts. “We’re going have to just scale back. That’s what the commissioners have been talking about.”

She said the library is a unique department which helps others in the process, including support of the educational system.

“Everybody keeps saying we need to fund the schools more,” she said. “By funding the library, you are funding the schools more. Right now the state is not providing textbooks or enough money to provide books for the schools libraries.”

Many jobs require applicants to apply through the Internet. Access to the World Wide Web is another service the library provides.

“A lot of the jobs don’t do pencil and paper anymore,” Bonney said. “You have to do it online.”

In town such as Newton Grove, Garland and Roseboro, Bonney said Internet access is limited. Enter the library service.

“We’re not the only game in town here (Clinton),” Bonney said, “but unless you want to sit in your car and buy some coffee and sit at McDonald’s, you can do it here for free.”

Branches are located in Clinton, Newton Grove, Roseboro, Garland. An outreach services also makes visits to places such as daycares and nursing homes.

The town’s officials are responsible for the upkeep of the buildings, but the county funding provides books, staffing and other materials. Distribution of products is based on the size of each town. Bonney said she tries to provide new material for the libraries.

Bonney said she has always tried to work with county and city officials as much as possible.

“My plea to the commissioners was very heartfelt last time,” she said.

Last year, the library system was cut by $70,000.

“I already lost that much,” she stressed. When one of the commissioners stated that this 5 percent across the board cut is not going to be partially fair and impartial to everyone, some departments were going to be cut more than others. That would be me.”

The cut resulted in the elimination of six part-time positions, operation hours at braches and branches closing their doors for one day during the work week. Currently, there’s 12 full-time and six part-time positions throughout the system.

“I think everybody last year understood,” Bonney said. “Everybody knew they were going have to give up something. But now I’m being asked to give up something again. It’s going to be hard.”

If more cuts occur, she wants the public to know they’re doing the best they can under the circumstances.

“When you get over 10 percent, it’s hard to continue to provide the same services at the same level,” Bonney said. “You just can’t do it.”

(Chase Jordan can be reached at 910-249-4617. Follow the paper on Twitter @SampsonInd.)

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