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Library board loses two assets

Editorial

Enough, finally, was enough.

At 83 and with a half-century of experience with libraries, Guy Craft, as chair of the Dougherty County Library System, was a fount of knowledge. On Tuesday, that fountain dried up with a short, to-the-point resignation letter submitted to the chairman of the Dougherty County Commission.

Craft's decision is understandable, if unfortunate. An African-American, he was labeled racist along with the rest of the library board's trustees after they made a decision last summer to close two underused branches — Southside and Westtown. County commissioners, particularly Commissioner John Hayes, joined in the criticism. After seeing the untimely death of Library Director Ashley Moore, seeing board member Gene Black tossed in favor of Hayes sitting on the board and Commissioner Gloria Gaines' drilling of interim Director Mary Antoine on Monday, Craft thought long and hard about how the stress could affect his own health.

The result: Another quality individual decided to walk away from public service rather than see his health ruined by poisonous barbs.

"We made our decision (on the closures) based solely on the numbers," Craft told The Albany Herald on Tuesday, the day he resigned. "We did what we had to do. We tried everything: cutting hours, cutting people. But when we crunched the numbers, it was close the two library branches or sometime this spring our system would be completely out of money."

It's also questionable that county commissioners had no idea about the financial crunch the system was under.

"They've cut almost a million dollars from the system since 2009, and the state cut another 3 percent in funding this year," Craft told The Herald on Tuesday. "Meanwhile, everything has gone up: the acquisition of new data and materials, insurance, retirement. Frankly, we were lucky to keep three branches open.

"If the commission had all these concerns (about branches closing), why didn't they give us enough funding to keep them open?"

Being second-guessed is part of being a public official, whether elected or appointed. And the Library Board was open to criticism for its decision. But the venom that was spewed was reprehensible and showed a lack of character in the people who uttered and wrote it. It was shameful behavior.

One thing is certain: It is a great deal easier to throw barbs at people who make hard decisions than it is to make those decisions. For Craft and Black, the library system is no longer their problem. It'll be interesting to see how their successors fix it.

Comments

ittybittyme 1 year, 4 months ago

Thanks for your service Mr. Craft. You are not a racist. You did your job. Wishing you good health and peace!

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