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.
“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.”
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?