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Library officials to meet with commission (W/MONDAY UPDATE)

Southside Branch Library at 2114 Habersham Road is one of two Dougherty County libraries which closed due to budget funding cuts.

Southside Branch Library at 2114 Habersham Road is one of two Dougherty County libraries which closed due to budget funding cuts.

EDITOR's NOTE: Dougherty County Administrator Richard Crowdis sent an e-mail to the Herald Monday morning saying that Guy Craft and Ashley Moore have been removed from the agenda for Monday, July 16 for a conflict and have been added to the agenda for the July 30 meeting.

ALBANY -- Even as two Albany area libraries sit shuttered, their materials moved and personnel reassigned, the heads of Library Board and system are set to explain their actions to the Dougherty County Commission.

Library Board Chairman Guy Craft and Dougherty County Library Director Ashley Moore are slated to tell county commissioners their rationale for closing the Southside and Westtown Library Monday.

Public outcry over the decision to shutter the libraries and unanswered questions by some on the commission prompted District 2 County Commissioner John Hayes to ask County Administrator Richard Crowdis to put Moore and Craft on Monday's agenda.

"As I mentioned during the commission meeting on yesterday, I was deeply disturbed by the closing of two Dougherty County libraries," Hayes wrote to Crowdis. "Perhaps more appalling was the manner in which we, the county's governing body, learned of those closings. While county government has no direct purview over library operations, as its major funding agency and a governing body accountable to the citizens of Dougherty County, library officials had a duty to inform us.

"The outrage over these closings continues and frankly, we do not know if such drastic action was avoidable; we do know that the impact will be significant."

Library officials said that the decision to close the two libraries and lay off six employees was made after alternatives had been considered to help the system cope with increases to healthcare costs and reductions to the state's portion of library funding.

A look at the utilization numbers show that Westtown and Southside were the most under used libraries in the system, with only Southside hitting double-digit percentages of users during the 2012 fiscal year.

Those numbers show that Southside had 6.8 percent of the system's total circulation, 9.5 percent of total computer sessions, 12.49 percent of total users and 10.25 percent new cardholders.

Westtown's numbers are even lower in some regards with 7.41 percent of the total circulation, 8.8 percent of computer sessions, 9.3 percent of total users and 5.6 percent of new cardholders.

Moore said the decision was a tough one, but one that was needed if the system as a whole was to stay financially solvent.

"No one, me above all, wanted to close a library, much less two," Moore said. "But we have few other choices if we're going to try and keep the system on a level footing."

But some residents, including Hayes, have voiced concerns that the two closed libraries were situated in some of the county's most economically disadvantaged areas.

"As we strive to improve public school graduation results, and the overall academic performance of our student populations, barriers to progress must be removed, not created," Hayes wrote. "The closure of these two libraries will limit access to much needed resources, such as research materials, computers, and even the environments which are more conducive for after-school study.

"Many of the students living in the South and Westside communities will be challenged to get to the locations that remain open due to lack of transportation, and a variety of other disadvantages," Hayes wrote.

The Library's FY2013 budget is $2.1 million, $78,000 less than the FY2012 budget.

Comments

Progressive 2 years, 2 months ago

There seems to be a communications gap. There also seems to be a lack of leadership for knowing what is going on during the budgeting process. This should never have been a surprise for the County Commissioners. The County Administrator should have already been in contact with the people submitting their budgets to know the issues and should have briefed the Finance Committee. I assure you someone already knew that the State was going to cut funding for the library system in each county prior to this announcement. At least the State is taking action to cut spending. The County Commissioners did nothing but recommend a property tax increase for the unincorporated area. Also, it sound like Commissioner Hayes is receiving pressure from some clergy about the loss of free Internet services. This has nothing to do with the books being taken away.

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Outtahere 2 years, 2 months ago

This is an example of City employees that are not doing their jobs, but yet take home a pay check every two weeks. I think this ties in nicely to the article about tax increases. MANY city employees are overpaid and incompentent.

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whattheheck 2 years, 2 months ago

The term "use it or lose it" fits this one nicely. The people spoke by by choosing to not use these branches in sufficient numbers. And I should remind or inform that one of the black pastors that spoke at an earlier meeting with commissioners, attended by the press of course, said the branches have a reputation for being in a crime area. His solution? Put a policeman in each branch and the people will return. The library board made the right decision and the county needs to accept the decision of its board--the county does not run the libraries...

John Hayes voted against the tax increase because it was going to pass without his vote and he knew it. It was a political move just as this one is now. Forget the politics, the closing needs to happen.

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Sister_Ruby 2 years, 2 months ago

Well I guess they are PROUD of having LIED to everybody in order to gen up some emotion and since their side WON, that makes it OK!! NOW.....how will THEY keep the hands of the ELECTED OFFICIALS OFF OF THAT "MONEY" THAT IS RAISED BY THE NEW "TAX" ?????

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HalfFan 2 years, 2 months ago

The pastors should use this as an opportunity to set up their own free internet in the church and give children and others a reason to visit the church. When given lemons, make lemonade.

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Outtahere 2 years, 2 months ago

They don't possess that mentality.

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