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Public pleads for library funds

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Even with a tax increase possible, residents Monday asked for the preservation of funding to the local library system, during a hearing on the county government's 2013 budget.

"It's just not about the numbers always. It's about the big picture," retired librarian Sue Calvert said.

While Calvert's comments were directed toward an argument that the Gwinnett County Public Library could reduce its materials budget by $1 million and still be in line with neighboring counties, her words also echo the arguments of about a dozen residents, who say the library system must be preserved for the quality of life of the community.

Roy Goodwin, a former city councilman in Watertown, New York, who now lives in Suwanee said a library is a reflection of the community you in which you live.

"Education is so important," Goodwin, 88, said. "Our children don't read enough."

Library board Chairman Phillip Saxton said the 33 percent cut to materials -- in a system that has reduced its budget by 20 percent in the past few years, including reductions in its hours -- would take the system back to a 2001 funding level, when the system operated 10 branches, instead of the current 15.

"We believe our library system provides a foundation for all citizens," he said. "We think (the cut) has irrevocable long-term consequences for the community."

Gwinnett Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash has proposed a total $1.3 billion budget for 2013, which is an 8 percent reduction from 2012. With a 25 percent dip in the capital spending plan, the operating budget would increase 1.1 percent.

Officials were able to tighten the budget to make up for an expected drop in the tax digest and minimal increases needed for state mandated changes, but the division of county expenses into service districts -- required by a court settlement with cities -- means people who live in unincorporated portions of the county will see an increase in tax bills, if the proposal stands.

"We are struggling with how we support those services that had been supported by the entire county but won't be anymore," Nash said, speaking mostly of police services, where residents of nine cities with their own police forces will no longer pay county taxes for the department. "There are a lot of things that are very needed for the government, but there simply isn't the money for all of those."

Norwood Davis, a Lawrenceville resident, said he understood the reduction to the library since information is more accessible during the digital age.

"It is my opinion the budget is an appropriate and balanced approach," he said, adding that he appreciates the effort to make the process transparent to the public.

Comments

notblind 1 year, 4 months ago

The Suwanee branch could be closed and sold for commercial redevelopment. The city hall is within walking distance and there is already an existing pedestrian tunnel under the RR tracks. All this would enhance the building and property's sale price.

The Buford library branch is only about 10 minutes away.

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Discouraged 1 year, 4 months ago

are you joking? Why don't you visit the Suwanee Library and see how many people use it.

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Gundoctor1 1 year, 4 months ago

Well, if it is left up to the library board to come up with the answers you can kiss it goodbye. They are the ones that suggested advertising on bookmarks and vending machines for books to raise revenue. ha ha!!!

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dentaldawg83 1 year, 4 months ago

Well, at least the current BOC isn't threatening our police and fire protection like the last bunch did.As far as libraries go, I haven't been in one (other than to vote) since I got the internet connected at my house some years ago. I'm afraid (and I'm an avid reader) that Amazon et al are more the way thngs are done nowadays and the Public Library is fast becoming a dinosaur, much like Encyclopedias, PDR, etc. Frankly the private sector can provide the same services the Public Library can.

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dmarie 1 year, 4 months ago

I suggest going to a branch, especially on the weekend, and you will see the library is far from becoming a dinosaur! I go to the Suwanee and Duluth branches and the amount of people in the building is unbelievable. When you get tired of spending money on Amazon, just go to our library's website to download eBooks. That's what I started doing as soon as I got a Kindle a couple years ago. The public sector might be able to provide the same services, but you will be paying a whole lot more for the same stuff you can get at the library.

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Sonoma 1 year, 4 months ago

I do not plead for library funds. The libraries waste money like Congress. What has the library system done in the past year? Held a fashion show with librarians wearing shredded books, had a disorganized signing for a soap opera book, was asked to take down religious artwork from a branch, decided to renovate branches while the system is not at full operating hours or even have the materials people are requesting. Libraries need to lead by example and this library system has done no such thing. There is NO justification to keep library funds at their current level. Funds should be cut further.

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knwhite 1 year, 4 months ago

Again, research your facts. The renovations of the libraries were funded by SPLOST funds, which were voted on by citizens of the county several years ago, and specifically for this purpose. The SPLOST funds cannot be used for operating expenses, and need to be used for the projects that they were voted on for. Please don't confuse the issues.

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kevin 1 year, 4 months ago

It isn't the folks complaining, It is the Library Board doing all the yelling to protect their little empire. As for the Suwanee location, it has so few books that nothing interests and adults to come in. It has been like this for a long time.

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knwhite 1 year, 4 months ago

It would be really nice if people actually did their research before making comments. At the hearing last night, there were 10 people who spoke in support of the libraries. Only one person who spoke in favor of the whole budget. Of the 10 who spoke in favor of the libraries, one was the outgoing Board chairperson, who presented facts regarding the library budget.
The proposed budget cut, and if taken from materials, would drop the materials budget by 1/3 of what it currently is. While, yes, the materials budget could take a cut, but I would not recommend a 33% cut.

Look at the Library statistics that are available on their webpage.

The Gwinnett County Public Library circulates over 7 million items a year, being open 44 hours a week. A few years ago (2009), it was circulating 7 million items a year when it was open 70 hours a week. That means that even though there are less hours for the public to walk through the doors to get materials, they are still checking out the same amount that they did when the library was open more hours. That means more items check out each open hour. If libraries are going away, then why is the circulation statistics at our library going up. It is because the library staff do a good job of getting mateials that our citizens are interested in. Otherwise they would not be circulating. So, no dentaldawg83, the library is not fast becoming a dinosaur.

The private sector may be able to do some of what the library does, but it does not do it for free, or at the low cost of what it is actually costing the taxpayers to support the library. Many of the databases that the library makes available to us are not free.

Not everyone can afford to purchase their books at Amazon or other book stores. For around $40 dollars a year, you have over a million items that you can use. What are you going to get for $40 from Amazon?

If there are 800K citizens in the county and 300K library card holders, many households having one card for all the members of the family, then many of the citizens in Gwinnett are using the library. 8500 people walking through the door every day on average, wtih another 16K linking through the library webpage. Thats a lot of hits.

The Suwanee Branch is one of the busiest libraries in the system. I'm sorry that Kevin is not finding materials there to his liking, but I'm sure that if he were to talk with a librarian they would be happy to help you find something. There are over 80K items in their collection.

The only thing stopping you from taking advantage of this wonderful service that is provided to us by our tax dollars is you. Before you make decisions, come into the library, see how many people are using the library, job seekers, mothers with children, students studying, business people researching. It is quite a busy place. And the best customer service that I have ever received from a tax funded service.

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kevin 1 year, 4 months ago

I've used my library card only once in 3 years! You can rent books online, just about any book, and even go into the Federal library system for their books.

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numerouno 1 year, 4 months ago

Dentaldawg: Where do the people who cannot afford books or internet access in their homes go when they need to do research or use a computer to search for jobs? Not everyone has the disposable income for a private internet connection or to purchase books from Amazon.

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numerouno 1 year, 4 months ago

Sonoma: This isn't the first time you've mentioned the paper dresses. lol, What's your obsession with that? Those aren't books pulled from library shelves. They were damaged and discarded items that were no longer useful. And visit any library outside of Gwinnett. You're going to have to wait for that new James Patterson 10 times longer than at GCPL. No other library system in Georgia stacks up to Gwinnett's.

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mayor 1 year, 4 months ago

It is my observation that the Public Library is the best Return on Investment (ROI) in the county. If you assume everyone has a home computer, you failed to realize how many people are looking for jobs and their budgets have lost their home computer access. The library provides the tools (resume building, interview skills, job searches, etc) that helps many find jobs. Every person who finds a job with the library's help is one more person back on the tax rolls and off the public dole.

Let alone the future of our county is enhanced as he help students better themselves. To focus on anything else is being shortsighted.

We should be investing more in our libraries.

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