LAWRENCEVILLE -- Facing another major cut to its budget, Gwinnett County Public Library officials met Friday to discuss how to lobby commissioners to maintain its funding.
Board members discussed making their case for funding during a public meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, set for public comments on a proposed 2013 government spending plan. The document, which would require a tax increase for many Gwinnettians, would give another $1 million reduction in a subsidy to the library, if approved in January.
After 2010 budget cuts, the library system reduced its hours from 72 hours a week to 43, but Chairwoman Charlotte Nash has asked the board to find the $1 million cut in the system's materials budget instead of another reduction in hours.
"If I don't have the materials, they aren't going to come. ... Then it's not going to matter what hours you have available," said library board member Suzanne Skeen, a media specialist at a local elementary school. "It's like the chicken and the egg."
The library's materials budget is about $3 million a year. Nash pointed out that other library systems have a smaller percentage of their budget devoted to materials, and board member Dick Goodman said the materials level is at the optimum for state standards while hours are at a minimum.
But library officials are concerned that entire collections, like databases and large print materials, may have to be cut if the funding is reduced to 2001 levels, when the system supported 10 branches as opposed to 15 today.
"It is a severe cut. It doesn't reflect a reduction in demand. That's way out of balance with what our customers have said they want," said Deb George, the division director for materials, who said the circulation has dipped 8 to 9 percent with the reduction in hours. "You kind of live and die by circulation."
Based on the dip, the library staff has discussed a possible $300,000 reduction to the materials budget but had hoped to use the funds to find a more balanced approach to the hours, leaders said.
"A million dollars is too harsh for a system trying to meet the demands of Gwinnett," Skeen said of the only notable reduction proposed for any county expense. "It ought to be shared equally."