City approves funding to open AF library
As the Ash Flat Library inches closer to completion, Norwin Green, who serves on the library commitee, spoke to the Ash Flat City council on May 21 about needs of the library and its governance.
Green explained the board has encountered disagreements with the Sharp County Library Board, and discussed the advantages to becoming a city library, as opposed to a county one.
The city obtained grants to re-model the former fire department headquarters after Mayor Danny Traw gifted the building for use as a library. The facility is completed and only lacking furnishings and books.
Green told council he has received a tremendous amount of support from the state library, and has run into several obstacles with the county board. Among the concerns Green cited is the county board would force the library to stay with an obsolete card catalog system rather than a modern electronic version. It would only allow $40,000 per year for books, which average $27 per book. This means the library would only receive 1,500 books per year. Green explained he has already obtained a donation of over 200,000 new books that will be delivered to the city free of charge.
In addition, if the county were to run the library, it would take over a year before they receive their books, as all books would have to be processed at the Batesville library before being inventoried at Ash Flat.
Green also told council he had an experienced librarian who has agreed to volunteer to help set up the library the way it is supposed to be. He explained to the council, he and the commitee, along with the Friends of the Library group would continue continue to work on the library for an additional six months, if the city would help with the cost of set up, including internet service, office supplies and some furnishings. Green proposed that the city hire a librarian and appoint a 5-7 person board to make it a city library. Council members appeard to support the city library proposal, but wer unsure whether the city could afford a librarian.
Council voted to expend up to $5,000 to get the library up and running. It will later decide who would run the facility. The appropriation would also pay for bar coding the books and printers.
Members of council, including Sue Ross and Jerrell Lesley, discussed the advantages of the electronic system over the card catalog. Others said many young people have never encountered the older systems. Green said members of the library group have visited surrounding libraries, and the ones in Sharp County are the only libraries that still utilize the card catalog system of locating books.
Other concerns the group had with the library being run by the county included the hours the library would be open. The county board will only allow the library to be open for 21 hours a week. Green explained limited hours do not work well college students and others who need the library available to them when they are off work and on weekends. The county board will not allow the library to operate unless a licensed librarian is present, if the city opts for a city library, volunteers can be used -- that is not allowed by the county board unless a paid clerk is present.
With a growing population in the area and numerous college students who need a library for research and internet access, Green said it just makes sense. Also, with the slow economy, many can not afford Internet access, which the library will provide.
Many times, electronic medium, periodicals and movies are checked out from libraries more than books.The Sharp County Library Board tracks the number of books checked out and, in past meetings, has used book check out numbers as a basis to limit the hours of operation.
Members of council agreed and Ross said, "This was our orignal plan, to get a library everyone could use when they needed it."
Green said representatives of the state library were pleased with the progress and said it is well on the way to becoming a state of the art library.
In other business, council went into executive session to discuss employment. The City of Ash Flat, hired Wendall Lane to work for the police department part time, and promoted Steve Powell and Dan Fry to Sergeants, with no increase in pay.
Prior to adjournment, Alderman Jerrell Lesley announced his resignation, citing relocation as the reason. "It has been a great honor serving on this council. It is with great regret that I must announce this. I no longer live in my Ward. It has always been my personal goal to make the best decisions possible for the city."
The Ash Flat City Council meets the third Tuesday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at Ash Flat City Hall. The public is always welcome to attend.