Libraries look to avoid layoffs, cutting services

State funding to the Sunflower County Library System has been cut 37 percent in the past year, and the forecast doesn’t look much better.
It also receives support from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services, but Library Director Mary Ann Griffin said that’s “on the presidential chopping block.”
Although concerned, Griffin said she has an “unshaken conviction” that they will find a way to survive. She said they need to find other funding sources or risk of having to cut back on programs, equipment, hours and employees.
“We don’t want to back off of anything,” she said.
The largest portion of the library system’s funding — $366,000 per year — comes from Sunflower County. For the Indianola library, it receives $109,000 for operations and $10,700 for upkeep from the city, Assistant Director Kay Slater said.
But state funding is another key component. Due to legislative cutbacks, the local system is only expected to receive $27,310 from the state, which is $16,356 less than the library received the previous year and represents about a 37 percent cut.
Those funds come through a Personnel Incentive Grant, which is disseminated by the Mississippi Library Commission. It provides resources, life and health insurance for the staff, continuing education and training, as well as allowing patrons free access to genealogy and journal databases.

The federal grants are also provided to the state through the state Library Commission. It distributes them to the individual systems in the state, and they are used locally to provide funds for continuing education, library materials and senior adult computer classes.
According to Griffin the other four branches in Moorhead, Inverness, Ruleville and Drew receive “in kind” assistance from their cities.
Griffin said the local funding sources have been very good to the libraries.
She said she is currently investigating other grants but adds that a library can’t really be run off of what she calls “soft money.”
Griffin appeared before the Indianola Board of Aldermen on April 10 to deliver the Indianola branch’s annual needs assessment. She said they have been slammed with repairs this year and outlined several major items that have already been repaired or replaced including two HVAC units plus a list of items still in need of replacing, such as the nearly 40-year-old carpeting.
Also in need of repair is a portion of the roof and ceiling tiles damaged by a water leak that still needs to be fixed and the elevator, which has to be repaired and brought up to code.
For the elevator, having the worn out part replaced is just part of it; the elevator has to be set up with two-way communication. The buttons have to be lowered to make it compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, plus a pit ladder and ventilation have to be added. In addition it has to be inspected regularly by a certified inspector, which costs around $200 a visit.
Griffin is fervent in her belief that libraries are a vital part of the community. She dubs the library “the third place,” with home and work being the first two.
The library has much more to offer than just reading material, she said, including free research resources that would normally have to be paid for by the individual, free classes and workshops, audio books, The Talking Book Program for the impaired and free DVD rentals on current movies.
Griffin extolled the vital contributions of time and services rendered by the Friends of the Henry M. Seymour Library. Member Robin Rosenthal has been working to make the building’s exterior just as presentable as the interior, from dolling up the landscape to painting the weather-beaten outer walls, Griffin said.
Another validation of the library’s impact is the reception of the Star Library Award in the $601,000 to $1 million expenditure category from the Mississippi Library Commission. Griffin said the award targets four areas: number of visits to the facility, circulation, program attendance and public computer use.