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Hall library cutting hours, books

County system’s funding level lags behind others in area

POSTED: June 24, 2009 11:20 p.m.
TOM REED/The Times

George Souza, left, helps Enrique Vazquez, with his father Javier Vazquez, check out books and DVDs Wednesday at the Main Branch of the Hall County Library System in Gainesville.

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The Hall County Library Board adopted a shrinking budget Tuesday, including 27 furloughed closings and $300,000 less for books.

"We lost $200,000 from local funds for materials — books, magazines — and that’s what we’re about; that’s what we do," said Adrian Mixson, library system director. "The other funds were dropped from county."

The budget leaves the library about $1.60 per person in Hall County to spend for Fiscal Year 2010.

"If you look at other counties, that’s far less than most in Georgia," Mixson said. "We’re aiming to be like the Gwinnett or Forsyth systems, but we have a long way to go."

The state average of funding per capita is $3.78, with Forsyth at $4.64.

The library system will follow the county’s schedule for furloughs, putting many of the days around holidays.

"It doesn’t pay to bring staff in at times right before or right after Christmas, when we don’t have patrons," Mixson said.

But demand isn’t slowing. Computers are used from open until close each day, and summer programs for children and teens continue to be popular.

"People are in here looking for jobs, and they need the computers for that. We have to be able to update technology and software," Mixson said. "And today at the Spout Springs branch, 450 moms, dads and children were there to see a juggler. Services are still being heavily used."

The budget pinch won’t affect any branch in particular, but Mixson said some didn’t recover from cuts enacted several years ago.

"People still ask us about Saturdays at East Hall, Murrayville and Clermont, and others ask us about 9 a.m. at the other branches, but we just can’t cover that with staff," he said. "If nothing else, we’re striving for consistency. And if we have to readjust the budget more in the fall, we’ll have to shut down the branches for more days."

For now, patrons don’t seem worried about losing hours or resources.

"I come here for the Internet and e-mail in the middle of operating hours, from 4 p.m. to 5," said Justin Cain, 23.

Ricky Anderson, 30, enjoys the current array of newspapers and magazines.

"I come in here every day to read these," he said.

The Talking Book Center contract was canceled at the board meeting, but books on tape will still be available to patrons, Mixson said. The branches will post signs to announce furloughed closings, the first sign to be posted July 31.



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