Budget woes force Winder's library to reduce hours
Board votes to close on Fridays, Sundays

WINDER - A tight budget will force the Winder Library to close an additional 10 hours per week. That includes closing Fridays and Sundays.

The Barrow County Library Board voted in its July 23 meeting to make the changes to keep up with rising expenses.

"The board and I regret this decision, but based on the financial situation of this particular library, it made the most sense," said Alan Harkness, director of the Piedmont Regional Library System that serves, Banks, Barrow and Jackson counties.

"To keep up with increased demand, we had petitioned the city of Winder for an additional full-time position, but that did not pass budget this year. Coupled with the loss of another part-time person that we cannot afford to replace, this put us in a scheduling bind. We had to move that (part-time salary) money into the operating budget so we can afford to pay people to clean, pay for paper. Being a service industry, our staffing levels directly affect our operating hours."

Winder City Manager Bob Beck was not immediately available for comment.

The Winder Library will be open 38 hours per week beginning Aug. 13.

Lynn Sink of Winder brings her two children to the Winder Library as often as possible.

"I wish they were open more so they could do their homework here," she said. "We don't have a computer at home, and they use these to do research."

The closings won't affect the Dye family of Auburn, Fred Dye said. They will patronize Auburn's new library when it opens, he said.

Funding for libraries in Barrow County totals about $3 for each person in the county, excluding regional fees and support like library fines and copies, Harkness said.

"This does not compare favorably to the $16 average across the state and $25 nationally," Harkness said.

The Winder Library will operate on a $115,000 budget in 2008, excluding regional fees, which do not apply to the library's actual operations.

To that budget, Winder will contribute $26,400, the Barrow County Board of Education will chip in $37,900 and the Barrow County Board of Commissioners is expected to approve $41,750.

"That does not add up to $115,000, but the difference is made up in self-generated revenue like fines, fees, copies and meeting room use," Harkness said.

Across the Piedmont region's three counties, the majority of libraries get most of that funding from the city in which they stand, unlike Winder, according to Harkness.

"The growth is in the unincorporated areas of the counties," he said. "So we have people living in the county enjoying the library, but the local city pays for most of it. In the long term, enough people are moving to Barrow, Jackson and Banks counties who want good library service and will be willing to pay for it, I believe."