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Library board playing it safe with budget requests

With state aid looking promising, the Halifax County Library Board of Trustees is playing it safe when it comes to their remaining budget requests. 

The board is seeking level funding from the Town of Halifax and the Town of South Boston asking for the same amount as received last year. 

Library Director Jay Stephens brought the requests to the board during their monthly meeting Tuesday held in the South Boston Library. 

Currently, Stephens said it looks as if there are “no cuts in the horizon” on state aid, and the library system “may see several thousand more.”  

The Town of Halifax budget request had to be turned in to Town Manager Carl Espy prior to the meeting, and Stephens requested $11,000 for the upcoming budget year. 

Being that last year was the first year the library board had received financial help from the Town of Halifax, Stephens said, “I didn’t want to overshoot the next year.”  

The director also provided a letter, the formal request for funding from the Town of South Boston, addressed to Director of Finance Erle Scott. 

In the letter, the library system requested $76,000 for FY2015. 

The letter reads, “Funding in the amount requested will allow the library to make improvements in both the print and non-print collections, develop outreach services to serve those who are homebound and to offer more programming opportunities for children and youth.” 

Last year the Town of South Boston gave the library $74,000. 

Library board member Martha Coates asked the director if he had received “any indication from either of the towns that these are reasonable amounts and that we are more or less going to get these amounts.”

“I haven’t heard anything from South Boston, but I have received a little indication from Halifax that they maybe could possibly do a little more but weren’t sure,” said Stephens. 

The director also gave an update on the budget request sent to the Halifax County Board of Supervisors. 

During last month’s library board meeting, members approved a budget request that presented supervisors with two options for funding, $220,300 and $192,000. 

Since then, Stephens met with the County Administrator Jim Halasz and Finance Director Stephanie Jackson who said they liked that the board gave them options. 

“We didn’t really get to the point where they said yes we can give this or no we can’t. I told them if you fund us at this amount, here is what we’ll be able to do. If it’s level, this is how it’s going to impact us,” said Stephens who added they appreciated the information. 

Supervisors plan to meet with department and agency heads on March 17 concerning individual budget requests, which will give the library director a chance to “let them know what we need and why.” 

Another hot topic at Tuesday’s meeting involved regionalization of the county libraries. The idea of regionalization was first brought to the board in October when they met with Kim Armentrout, Public Library consultant, and Carol Adams, assistant director of the Library of Virginia. 

 On Jan. 24, Stephens and Branch Manager Chris Thompson met with Armentrout. 

The public library consultant talked with them about the regional effort between Campbell County, the City of Lynchburg and Bedford County. As of right now, she said it looks as if Bedford is not going to participate. 

Campbell County and the City of Lynchburg are moving forward, and Armentrout said if the library board is interested, it would be best to provide them with the library system’s data so it can be part of their decision-making process. 

Stephens pointed out they “could still decide not to pursue a partnership with Halifax at this time.” 

Armentrout also said she “got the sense that good faith efforts in that direction would be looked upon favorably by local officials.” 

If the board were to regionalize, the benefits would include monetary benefits and resource benefits such as sharing catalogs, sharing cataloging and sharing print resources. 

A majority of the board expressed opinions that since Campbell County has four libraries and Lynchburg has two or three compared to Halifax’s two libraries that they would have a limited voice if they were to regionalize. 

“We would be 20 percent of the libraries which means no voice. And that means our libraries would be run by Campbell County and Lynchburg,” said Coates. 

Members also said the other libraries would see Halifax “more as draining resources than contributing.” 

Regardless of their doubts, the board agreed they should continue looking into it and suggested Stephens speak informally with the Campbell County director to see what other information he might bring back to the board. 

In other business, members approved the collection development, art display, unattended children and public use of library telephone policies that were first brought to the board at last month’s meeting.

The behavior policy was tabled to the next meeting. Board members requested the director to revisit the policy because they felt that visitors should not be allowed to have drinks in the library. 

The board also authorized Stephens to purge the patron database. When a database is purged, the system is searched several years back to look for library cardholders who have been inactive and remove them from the system. 

The board also reviewed a collection policy that will be brought back to the next meeting for action. 

According to Stephens, the main change to the policy is that any minor must have their library card application signed by a parent, grandparent or legal guardian. Currently that only applies to those 14 and under. 

Stephens also was given permission to sell tote bags at a price he sees fit. The director suggested the bags start off at $3 a piece. The yellow, pink, green and orange bags will be on sale at the libraries and special events. 

The director also said he sent an application to receive a grant that picks 10 libraries to participate in an 18-month professional development program. The $8,000 grant will provide the 18-month cohort experience, marketing training and public relations training. No match grant is needed.  

The next library meeting will be held March 11 at 4:30 p.m. at the South Boston Library.