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Library to use reserve funds

LAWRENCEVILLE - State spending cuts mean the Gwinnett County Public Library has to dip into its reserve fund at a time when libraries are a key service to the community.

During a library board meeting last week, officials approved the spending of reserve fund cash to make up for lower state subsidies.

The state's portion of fiscal year 2008 funding was decreased by $90,037, while the fiscal year 2009 portion was reduced by about $37,674.

Jane Walters, director of business services for the library, said officials warned that more reductions would be coming soon.

In the meantime, the library's administrative staff has been meeting with Gwinnett County finance officials about local funding for the program.

More than 80 percent of the library's funding comes from the county, so director Nancy Stanbery-Kellam said she is trying to instill in officials the importance of the library in tough times.

"We acknowledge we're all in an economic downturn," she said at Monday's meeting. "But we reminded them that when the economy is down, library usage is up."

Board chairman Lloyd Breck pointed out that the library provides reference material and access to the Internet for residents to use for job training and job searches.

"We need to make sure the value of the library is heavily stressed," he said.

The library system has asked for about $20.4 million from the county, a $1.7 million increase.

In January, county commissioners approved a $1.5 million cut to the library's funding, but that money was restored in March when officials realized that state aid is contingent on the system receiving as much financial support from the county as in previous years.

The good news, though, Stanbery-Kellam said, is that while all state-funded positions have been frozen, the Gwinnett library system's eight state-bankrolled positions are all full.