Gwinnett Commissioners needs to find a way to save library materials budget

Gwinnett County Commissioners are set to approve today a $1 million CUT to the Gwinnett County Library budget, and as someone who grew up going to the wonderful Mountain Park library branch I think it’s a shame and wrong.

Here’s the background on the story from The AJC:

“In a letter to the county commission, dated Dec. 10, library board chairman Phillip Saxton wrote that the cut would have “irrevocable long-term consequences for the community.” It would leave the library system with a materials budget of $2.3 million — down 30 percent from 2012 and, according to Saxton, at a level last seen in 2001 when the county had 500,000 residents and 10 library branches…”

“(Gwinnet County Board of Commissioners Chairman Charlotte) Nash said the cut is necessary because county property values are projected to decline by 2 percent this year, which equates to a $3.2 million loss in the county’s general fund, from which the library system is funded. Nash has recommended that the entire cut be taken from the library’s materials budget, which pays for the books, periodicals, compact discs and other items available to be used or checked out….”

“Today, there are 15 branches and more than 800,000 residents, with about 310,500 people holding library cards.”

“ ‘Gwinnett citizens expect more than an average or minimal delivery standard for their libraries and their schools,” the letter (from Saxton) says. “Local economic growth depends on a literate, well-educated population. The public library fulfills the role of promoting lifelong literacy in the community.’ ”

“Nash said officials studied budgets in other counties, including Cobb County’s $1.3 million annual budget for library materials, before recommending the cut.”

“ ‘It’s one of those things I felt like … we could afford to make a reduction there without crippling services for a short term situation until we hopefully see a stabilization of tax” revenue, Nash said. “Everyone has had reductions in previous years. There just are not ways to balance the budget without actually hitting services in a hard way.”

“We’re definitely hitting on muscle now.”

(For more on the story, click here.)

I grew up in the Gwinnett library system. We went to the Mountain Park library when it was just one-room below another building. I remember flipping through the card catalogs, and I loved when they stamped in the books. There were rocking chairs to sit in and read. I developed my love for reading and learning in that Mountain Park branch.

When they constructed the new Mountain Park building by Mountain Park park we thought it was incredible. I spent many hours as a child and teenager studying there and using its resources for school and fun.

As an adult, it would tear me up to walk to the library with my children and have them explore the same shelves that I did. They loved perusing the picture books, the magazines, the comic books and of course playing on the computer. We would go several times a week.

And I am still using the Gwinnett County library system despite living 2,000 miles away. I find and reserve books online for my father through the Gwinnett County library website.  He calls them his pre-approved books since they are books I have already read and can recommend to him. He just has to stop by and pick them up. The librarian always helps him with the checkout machine.

A strong library system is obviously important for literacy and academic success but I think it’s even more important during hard economic times. For many struggling families it is the only way for them to get books, movies and music. They give up subscriptions to Netflix or buying magazines and books, and the library allows them to still have entertainment and enrichment in their lives.

I hope the Gwinnett County Commissioners can put their heads together and find a way to not cut or cut less from the materials budget for the sake of the county.  A strong library is extremely important to the community and cannot be undervalued!

What do you think? Are you in support a cutting the materials budget? What are other ways to make the budget balance without such a drastic decrease to its buying ability? Where are some other places that you see waste in the county or areas that might affect less people?

31 comments Add your comment

Mayhem

January 3rd, 2013
7:51 am

You read and pre-approve books for your FATHER?????

LoganvilleGuy

January 3rd, 2013
8:48 am

Funding levels are not sustainable with the constant decline in the tax revenue. Middle class familes are struggling to make ends meet and can’t afford the continual tax increases being placed ont hem by local governments. Severe cuts have to be made and they are going to be painful. Unfortunately, local governments have to prioritize their responsibilities.

I expect my local government to provide quality public safety first and foremost. From there, I expect them to provide quality infrastructure such as roads, etc. Unfortunately, when you prioritize everything that *MUST* be paid for, there is a lot of stuff that comes before libraries. Libraries and recreation are logical choices for the first painful cuts.

catmom

January 3rd, 2013
8:54 am

I live in Gwinnett County and use the library at least once a week. I most often use the branch closest to my home, but I regularly use 2-3 other branches too. I really hope this doesn’t go through. One million is a lot to cut from the budget. We already have reduced hours at the branches, which I was okay with becuase they were fair about it and did it in such a way that kept all the branches open 7 days a week.

Metro Atlanta libraries do not participate in the Georgia Pines system like most of the state does, so we don’t have the option of obtaining books from other library systems. Slashing the materials budget would be a terrible blow.

Theresa, I think it’s sweet that you help your father pick out books (I assume he’s not really handy with the internet?).

DB

January 3rd, 2013
9:17 am

As a frequent user of the library it saddens me to see the budget cuts. In the last couple of years I have noticed that the number of new books, e-books and audiobooks going down. Despite my disappointment, I understand the need to cut the budget. I’d rather have our wonderful librarians and support staff than more books, I still have a long way to go before I can say I don’t have anything to read. The value of the library is not just in material but in a community gathering spot, the help from the staff and the wealth of information within its walls.

The time has come to come together as a community and raise funds through our efforts/donations to support the library

Voice of Reason

January 3rd, 2013
9:19 am

There is this new thing called the Internet. It’s probably just a fad but it appears that lots of people use it on a daily basis to read publications directly from their computer screen on something called the World Wide Web.

Often, you can also actually comment on stories posted on the Internet to make you feel more involved, GASP!

I don’t think I have physically stepped foot in an brick and mortar library since I was in college, so about 15 years ago.

Want to save money? Convert all the printed text books and movies that take up tremendous amount of space and overhead into digital format and turn the entire building into one really big Internet cafe. Think Starbucks on Steroids, and, well, free.

I see the “traditional library” sharing the same fate as that of printed newspapers and book stores…endangered species. They exist only to serve those who do not know how to use a computer, who are a dying breed.

Just my $.02.

motherjanegoose

January 3rd, 2013
9:35 am

I LOVE books ( paper and hard copy) and am all about literacy. I started using the Gwinnett Library over 23 years ago and went at least once a week when my kids were small.

I fully agree with the first sentence of this statement below but what about the second? I would insert “is a wonderful or indispensable way to fulfill” as parents will need to frequent the library ( with their children) and many do not. If you do not use the library…what role does it have? I am not sure the majority of parents today see the importance of the library, as I did with mine. I never went to the library with my parents and yet I loved books…we got our books at our school library.

“Local economic growth depends on a literate, well-educated population. The public library fulfills the role of promoting lifelong literacy in the community.’ ”

I have not been in a Gwinnett County library in years. I have been invited to speak in libraries out of state but not locally. Many tell me they are trying to build a strong base with their families and young children so they will be able to keep them interested in the library. I think this is a wonderful thing!

It is a pleasure to work with librarians or media specialists. They have so much information to share.

I would like to know the percentage of residents,in our county, who USE their library. We have 3 cards in this house that have not been used in close to 5 years. I am curious because people make time to do so many things but reading themselves or to children is one of the best things to build a foundation for learning and enhance their education. We have these fine facilities but what percentage of our people are using them?

Here is the tough thing about budgets ( to me): something has to be cut. We just challenged our home tax assessment and got it lowered. I realized if everyone else did this it would also reduce the tax revenue and services. This is one of the few taxes I could do something about besides sales tax. So I did it.

A saying that reminds me what I need to do: MAKE TIME FOR WHAT IS IMPORTANT. Parents need to make time for reading with children! Sports are fun and music is wonderful but reading is something you will use your entire life!

non committal mind reader

January 3rd, 2013
10:00 am

As always… The only way to save this budget is by hitting Gwinnett homeowners up for more taxes. Is it fair to hit up a subset of Gwinnett citizens to pay of a resource that is used by all?

Every budget item has its defenders. Every defense is “we can’t afford NOT to do this” and “what will happen to the poor poor pitiful group of users who utilize this resource?”. And thus, the average homeowner pays for services that he/she will never use. How fair is it to raise taxes on homeowners who are underwater on their mortgages to pay for other folks to go to the library?

I’d suggest that defenders of this cause raise the funds, instead of using their political clout to extort more money from beleaguered homeowners.

Mayhem

January 3rd, 2013
10:00 am

My kids are all lin their 20’s so we have not been into a public library in years.

We read to our kids every night while they were in school. We didn’t have to go to the library to get them interested in reading. They saw us reading all the time. My youngest didn’t really get into reading on her own until the Twilight Series came out, then she couldn’t put them down. She has the entire collection in hard back.

We are big readers in our family. Mom got the Kindle for christmas, and we are looking into that.

catlady

January 3rd, 2013
10:01 am

I hate to see a cut in any library funds. I spent months’ worth of happy hours in the small library in my hometown. There were a few window seats and I could often be found there. It was priceless. Then they built a new, bigger library and the charm was gone.

When I was in college, especially in grad school, I loved to work in the library. During the time I was working on my dissertation, I spent many happy hours in my little “office” there. When I go back to Athens I visit friends and then go and spend a few hours in the library, catching up.

However, if it is a choice between libraries and police officers, especially if I lived in Gwinnett (as opposed to where I live where there is little crime) I would favor the police. It is a sad state when we have to pit safety against one of the things that makes life good (education),

usually lurking

January 3rd, 2013
10:13 am

@Voice – ” They exist only to serve those who do not know how to use a computer, who are a dying breed.”

My observation is that the computers at the library are one of the most used resources. I use the library computer when I want to check out information in a magazine that I don’t subscribe to, such as Consumer Reports. I would also submit that while I am quite computer literate, being in IT industry for some 20+ years, I still like the feel of a real book in my hands, and visit the library 3-4 times a month to check out books that I’ve reserved on their online system (oops, there’s that computer use again).

I may finally have to succumb to the kindle though, as taking enough books to read during a recent vacation added a lot of weight I really didn’t need. But, I think I can check out electronic books too…

motherjanegoose

January 3rd, 2013
10:27 am

@ usually…I am with you on the last line…I got two hard back books for Christmas and am reading them while I am home. I like a real book.

@non committal…I know nothing about this but can they initiate a study as to whether those who use the libraries are more likely to be homeowners and paying the taxes for the libraries?

The libaries we have here are like a Stretch Limo compared to a VW bug, which we had in the small town we lived in, when we lived in TX. Size and bells and whistles too!

Misty

January 3rd, 2013
10:45 am

I am one who is hoping it doesn’t happen. I don’t live in Gwinnett but pay $30 for a library card. I go at least twice a week. I have been told to start buying the books I want from Amazon for pennies since the library couldn’t buy them all. I think it’d be great for them to raise extra money: sell books, bake sale, etc.

Chad

January 3rd, 2013
10:51 am

Our library system needs to be kept up to date. I would have no objection to paying a small annual fee of perhaps $10.00 to $12.00 for my library card if this would keep the library materials current. I believe most library users would feel the same way. We pay for the use of the county swimming pools and to participate in programs in the county parks, so if necessary we can pay to use the library. For the small percentage of the people that just could not afford a fee, then I would think exceptions could be made, or business contributions or other fund raisers could be created. Maybe even locale business owners would pay to have some advertisements in the libraries. Please commissioners just don’t take the easy way out and cut library services. We must think of some ways to keep our library system first rate.

motherjanegoose

January 3rd, 2013
11:06 am

I would be happy to pay $10 for a card. When we used the pools in Gwinnett County, we paid to use them. Also, I would be happy to pay to advertise. They could give out bookmarks with the advertisements on them. Good ideas Chad!

There are always lines at REDBOX and people pay per movie. Why not a small fee for the library too?

jmb

January 3rd, 2013
11:17 am

MJG – I can assure you that I pay more than my share in property taxes yet I never use the Public Library. Like most, I use the internet or swap with friends for books.

Voice of Reason

January 3rd, 2013
11:40 am

Though I get that some of you like the feel of a real book in your hands while you read. You have to be honest with yourselves that the convenience of having access to thousands upon thousands of books available for you to read whenever and however you want to via Kindle, Nook, iPad, or whatever your tablet of choice is very appealing.

I wouldn’t be surprised if sometime in the next 20-30 years to see printed books becoming a novelty item that people own.

Fifty years from now, I imagine the only place you will be able to see real books, is going to be in a museum.

Angie

January 3rd, 2013
11:49 am

I’m saddened that the library is such an easy target for budget cuts. I know tough decisions have to be made but strong libraries are important to strong communities. Not everyone has a computer with internet access at home, not everyone can subscribe to tons of magazines (even with digital options), not every parent can answer every question and can’t always guide internet research.

I grew up going to the local library and have had a library card since before I could read. I have a nook but I still love the feel of a book in my hands. Many of my friends who are “hard-core” readers feel the same way. The e-reader is nice for convenience but nothing beats a book in my hands. I would gladly pay a yearly fee (on top of the taxes I pay) to maintain a solid library.

Jessica

January 3rd, 2013
12:13 pm

Are there ways that residents can help make up the difference? What about fundraising, donating, and/or volunteering?

motherjanegoose

January 3rd, 2013
12:18 pm

@jmb…my point exactly.

Me

January 3rd, 2013
12:26 pm

Have never used the library and have no plans for such. Yet, I contribute via property taxes the same as other resources I hope to never use, i.e. fire, police, etc.
If, however, there were a manner by which to avoid paying for the library, I would prefer that route. Let those who want it thereby pay for it.

motherjanegoose

January 3rd, 2013
1:13 pm

@ Me…this is a fine line. Kind of like saying you have never have/had kids in public schools and thus do not want to pay property taxes for school. Education and literacy affects all of us. Knowing the best to way to fund literacy is up for discussion. I am a fan of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

FCM

January 3rd, 2013
1:26 pm

TWG went discussed this last year. Some areas (not GA) were closing the Branch Libraries but keeping the school ones open later/longer with some staff from the branches…with Public hours outside of school.

I would much rather close the branches and beef up the schools ones.

FCM

January 3rd, 2013
1:27 pm

er I meant we not went

FCM

January 3rd, 2013
1:29 pm

@ VOR you can probably still see the nice leather bound ones in my home library….but I admit I went to a Kindle Fire this Christmas. I had a book on it when it arrived and several more that will arrive once they are on the market (pre-orders).

K's Mom

January 3rd, 2013
4:01 pm

I have not been to our public library in our new town, but I loved the Sandy Springs library before we moved. I have not switched to an ereader because I do not travel, but would like to in the next year. However, my husband gave me a beauitful hardbound version of Les Mis for Christmas and I am enjoying the tactile experience of reading a real book for the first time since last spring, I have been reading on my phone. I also refuse to read to my kids from and ereader. I love looking at the pictures with them and the books that expose them to different textures. Friends gave me a book shower when my second was born to build our family library and it was wonderful. We explore planet tickel, admire Eric Carle’s beautiful art and touch and feel the baby animals every night. I do not want to do that on an electronic device!

The Regular DB

January 4th, 2013
12:33 am

(as opposed to the DB who posted above):

Yes, cuts are painful. But I suspect that with the increasing use of Kindle and internet resources, things like periodicals are getting less and less use. Heck, have you seen the thickness of a Newsweek these days? It’s no bigger than the “Highlights” that kids used to get 40-50 years ago!! It’s a recognition that fewer people are reading them — and I don’t think they are all reading the library copies!

I love libraries. But there are lots of books there — what they are describing is basically a major cut in acquisitions. Perhaps as housing prices pick up, the funding will be gradually reinstated. There’s also the opportunity for concerned citizens and libraries to have “book fairs” and book drives for local libraries, where people donate used books that find their way to the shelves. No, they may not be library bindings — but something free is better than nothing, right?

Matt Williams

January 4th, 2013
9:17 am

I love how people who readily admit they haven’t used a library in years think they know what is going on at the library. Visit and find out before commenting in ignorance. You might find the library a lot more modern than you think. Also, people who really don’t like to read all that much always think books will disappear. Real readers know differently. And finally, don’t assume because you and your friends are rich enough to afford internet and kindles and ebooks that everyone can. You would be very wrong. Oh, and if you think everything is online you are sadly mistaken.

SDR

January 4th, 2013
10:16 am

I hate to see the library materials budget cut. As someone who has worked in libraries for years I know that people are lining up to get the current bestsellers from the library. For example, sometimes there is a waiting list of up to 250-300 people for the most recent James Patterson in both print and eBook format! (Notice that I included eBook format because your library also offers eBooks that you can download straight from their website.) If that doesn’t tell you people are using the library I don’t know what will. One thing that I notice over and over again in these type of debates is the argument that the library is not viable due to the rise of eBooks. “You can get an eReader and have access to thousands of eBooks!” Yes, you can, but those eBooks still cost money. There are a lot of classics out there for free, but if you want that James Patterson you will have to shell out at least $9.99. eBook does not equal free book. For people living on a fixed income or tight budget that does not make eReaders/eBooks a viable alternative to the library. Even those members of the community who have the income to buy books/eBooks from Amazon, Barnes&Noble, etc., could be saving money by using the library. For high volume readers – people who read a book a week or have young children who constantly want new bedtime stories – the library can literally save them hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars every year.

HB

January 4th, 2013
11:26 am

Good point, SDR. I rarely visit my brick and mortar library, but I do use the library a lot, checking out e-books. I average two books per month — those would probably cost me $15-25 through Amazon or iBooks.

KVZ

January 6th, 2013
5:28 pm

From a public librarian:

Families come to the library, sometimes with both children and parents presenting their cards at the circulation desk, and leave with armloads of books—beautifully illustrated picture books, Caldecott and Newbery winners, books to foster budding readers, chapter books, popular series, and exquisitely illustrated nonfiction books on a multitude of topics. I often hear it repeated in certain circles that there is no longer a need for the public library—all these books are available at the local bookstore or via Amazon or can be downloaded to a handheld device. That’s certainly true, but even the most affluent families that frequent our library are unlikely to splash out the money in order to buy the stacks of books they borrow from the library, sometimes more than once a week.

To make real readers out of children they have to read, read, read, consuming piles and piles of books. The library offers them that opportunity, keeping their supply of books fresh, laying the foundation for a lifetime of reading, a lifetime of learning. Technological literacy, media literacy– it’s all built upon a firm foundation of traditional reading-based literacy starting with the ABCs. Libraries have had and will continue to have a unique role in providing a seemingly unlimited supply of books to patrons in traditional book format as well as the new digital formats. Everyone needs libraries. Let’s not assume otherwise.

motherjanegoose

January 7th, 2013
6:36 am

@ KVZ…I absolutely agree with your last paragraph! I am also perplexed at the idea that many families do not frequent the library and do not understand the importance of fostering strong reading skills. I LOVE BOOKS! PAPER BOOKS. I just wish that all parents would understand the long term implications of getting children interested in reading early. What percentage of young families use the library at least once a month?