Gwinnett library board members disagree on donation plan

LAWRENCEVILLE -- The Gwinnett County Public Library system needs a new business model, not a campaign for donations, one library board member says.

Board chairman Phillip Saxton introduced his proposal to seek $1 million in donations, another $1.2 million in advertising revenue and an endowment. All told, he hopes to raise $4 million a year to pay for lost tax revenue after a $2.8 million cut in county funding this year.

But at Monday's board meeting, Dick Goodman balked at the proposal, which was tabled to be discussed at a specially called meeting at 5 p.m. Sept. 29.

"This is not a high school football team trying to buy uniforms," said Goodman, the Suwanee city councilman who was named to the library board earlier this year. "This is a distraction from finding a new solution."

On Monday, library Director Nancy Stanbery-Kellam announced the system would cut its hours from 53 per week to 40 due to budget constraints.

She said the schedule has not been decided but would likely be consistent across the 15 branches.

But Goodman said the system needs a new plan and should consider hours based on the differing traffic and situations at the varying locations.

"This is self-defeating. We can't operate like that," he said.

In 2009, officials proposed a model creating several main libraries and limiting services at others. It was not well-received, but Goodman said the reaction was mostly due to hurt feelings from the decision to close the Dacula branch, which was later reversed.

Saxton says major businesses would be glad to pay the library to distribute information to the thousands of people that come through its doors. People would be willing to donate money and even leave some in their wills, he added.

Saxton said the $4 million projection is conservative and he has already had interest.

But Goodman said the campaign couldn't raise enough money to restore services.

"This is fantasy. ... Fantasy is dangerous because it diverts attention, resources and energy from seeking out real solutions," he said.