Board seeks sponsorships for libraries

Photo by Tori Boone

Photo by Tori Boone

SUWANEE -- As its chairwoman of six years stepped down Monday night, the Gwinnett County Public Library Board of Trustees urged employees and the public to help it get creative in finding ways to counteract a significant cut in county funding.

Citing serious health concerns, chairwoman Phyllis Oxendine announced her resignation at the end of the library system's bi-monthly board meeting at its Suwanee branch Monday.

"I leave this system in a far better state than when I came on this board," she said to fellow board members and GCPL employees. "I leave you in very capable hands. You're wonderful people and like family to me."

Oxendine informally recommended Vice Chair Phillip Saxton to take her place. Earlier in the meeting, it was Saxton who proposed the idea of seeking corporate sponsorships and other unique fundraising efforts to help battle the recent $2.8-million reduction in contributions from the county, roughly 15 percent of the system's overall budget.

Gwinnett County libraries need a long-term, regular donor or sponsorship base, Saxton said.

"I think it's the responsibility of this board to do what the board can to raise this money," he said. "It's not something that we should sit around and do nothing and wait for the county to increase our budget. That doesn't sit well with me."

Saxton said Monday he plans to put together a formal committee to address the issue so that "we are all speaking off the same page," but stressed the need for board members, employees and the public alike to reach out and share ideas.

Because of the county's cuts, the board also approved Monday an all-but-mandatory maintenance of effort waiver to be sent to the state, hopefully keeping it eligible for state funding.

"If your local funding agency does not maintain that same level," GCPL Executive Director Nancy Stanbery-Kellam said, "then you have to request this waiver for the state to continue providing its funding and support."

Stanbery-Kellam -- who said there are currently no plans for a reduction in library hours -- was open to Saxton's proposal of trying to find new fundraising sources.

"I'll be happy if it comes to fruition," she said. "Wouldn't that be lovely?"