There is no doubt that when it comes to money, everyone has had to tighten their belts over the last few years. The local libraries are no different and while local government funding has not gone down, state funding has; resulting in reduced hours and a limited budget for new books. When it comes to paying for overdue books, many people do not think that the 20 cents a day charge makes that much of a difference when it comes to the operation of the library. However, every little bit adds up and in the last few years the Hightower Memorial Library and Yatesville Public Library have accumulated roughly $51,000 in unpaid bills of overdue fees and lost books; over $8,000 of that from last year alone.
“We rely, not totally, but somewhat on the fines and fees to run the library,” said Pine Mountain Regional Library System Director Charles B. Gee. “We don’t want to embarrass anyone or make them feel guilty, but hope this can serve as a wake-up call.”
According to Gee and Assistant Director Cynthia Kilby, keeping a book out past its due date not only costs you and the library money, but keeps others from being able to enjoy it. If the book is long overdue or determined to be lost, it cannot be replaced because the funding budgeted for books has to go to new selections for the library and some of the older copies are no longer in print. The price of everything continues to go up and a new book now costs roughly $21 which, coupled with a reduced budget, means fewer new books available.
“Everything in the library is here for a reason,” said Kilby. “We work very hard to make sure there is a good collection of books and DVD’s. However, with limited funding, we are now pretty much restricted to purchasing best sellers and well known authors. We cannot afford to experiment with new writers or older selections, which is something that I hate.”
She continued, saying that the fine for a book is not a punishment, but rather an incentive to return the book or DVD on time and there are many avenues to do so. Patrons can call or go online to renew a book or turn it in using the book drop at the building.
“If we wanted this to serve as a punishment, then we wouldn’t offer as many avenues to return the book as we do,” said Kilby, “They can even be renewed twice if there is no waiting list for the book.”
Even though things have been tough in the past year, dealing with a reduction of hours and a smaller budget, there is one group of people who have supported the local libraries no matter what. Both Gee and Kilby noted the staff are still giving 100 percent and are very thankful to have such a great group of people to work with.
“We are very fortunate to have the team that we do working here,” said Kilby. “They have put up with a lot, but are still working hard. We rely on them to let us know what the people want. They help us greatly.”
Mr. Gee noted that they are also thankful to the local County Commissioners for not cutting their portion of the budget for the last few years. Even though the amount has not increased lately, he feels their support shows what the community values and a lot of libraries are not so lucky.
The two local libraries are a free service provided to the community and offer outlets for entertainment through books, activities and computers, and also education and teaching. Due to the increase in operation costs and a decrease in funding, library hours had to be reduced and fewer new books are being purchased. While it may seem like there is nothing one person can do to help the situation, everyone can do their part to make a difference. Returning books on time, paying fees when you don’t, and finding that book that is lost under your bed can all be of assistance; every little bit helps.