Columbia County Library to break away and establish its own library system
by Eric Johnson
Columbia County’s desire to break away from the Augusta-based East Central Georgia Regional Library System and anchor a new regional library system is further evidence of the county’s growth, both in population and independence.
“It’s basically a stage of progression,” says Barry Smith, director of Community and Leisure Services. “We started our own Convention and Visitors Bureau here, a Chamber of Commerce here and a Development Authority here in Columbia County. I guess this is just the next step.”
Smith says the idea was actually recommended by the State Public Library Office.
“We just followed their lead, and they said why don’t you team up with Lincoln and Warren Counties?”
So Smith made presentations to the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners and the Library Board, which resulted in Lincoln County’s unanimous vote to leave the East Central regional system.
Smith did the same thing in Warren County, and the Warren County Board of Commissioners, thought to be favoring the change, will vote on Thursday.
In order to officially take effect, the breakaway counties will have to give notice to East Central Georgia Regional Library System by December 31. The new library system would then begin on July 1, 2013.
According to Smith, it’s a move in the right direction.
“We would be receiving state money directly at the Headquarters Library in Evans and then we would redistribute the money appropriately to those two counties,” he says. “Currently, the monies that are bestowed on the main hub library in Richmond County are not distributed the way we would do it.”
As hub of the current five-county system, which includes Columbia, Burke, Lincoln and Warren counties, Richmond County gets 10 state-paid positions, all of which are in downtown Augusta, Smith says. Under the proposed system, Columbia County would receive four state-paid positions with only Lincoln as part of the system or five if Warren County chooses to join.
While Columbia County gains five state-paid positions, Richmond County loses four as well as additional funding, which could be detrimental to the Augusta library, which is struggling to attract visitors in spite of the community’s generally favorable reaction to the new building.
Columbia County’s Evans library has higher circulation numbers than the downtown Augusta headquarters. In fact, circulation numbers from May indicate that Columbia County’s three libraries nearly equaled the circulation of Richmond County’s six libraries.
In spite of the loss in funding and paid positions, Richmond County is unable to object to the change.
“There’s really no stopping it,” Smith says. “It’s an option we have.”
Being a hub will be a big change for the Columbia County library, which will see more work under the new plan.
“It’s a lot more work because all the books would be coming straight from Atlanta to the hub,” Smith says. “Here in Columbia County, we’d have to catalog all our own books. Our workload would increase, circulation would increase and responsibilities would increase.”
Smith feels that the opportunities and state funding outweigh the burdens of additional work, however.
The personnel budget will be augmented by $275,000 with state-paid positions, plus the county will get a $90,000 grant.
“And we don’t have to pay the dues and associated costs,” Smith says. “We are almost a half million dollars to the good.”You Might Also Like: