Sebastian County Libraries Push For Extra Space, Extended Hours [Times Record, Fort Smith, Ark.]
(Times Record (Fort Smith, AR) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Oct. 20--The Sebastian County library system needs additional space and expanded hours, according to a recent study.
Library consulting firm Averus Corp. conducted the study. Averus president David Price explained that it compared the library system to other systems in its market-size as well as results of surveys taken from a sizable group of the library patrons, more than 50 percent of whom are between ages 20-54.
The results indicate the need for expansion of facilities and additional hours to accommodate the size of the county.
"Looking at what we know now and from the statistics we've gathered, the reality is that you've got a great asset; you just need some financial assistance in getting your facility in shape and up to date," he told Quorum Court members last week.
The results did not surprise county library officials.
"We know we have a lot of use for it, but we just don't have the space, which is why we have the demand for more hours, so we can utilize usage," Library board chairman Ken Hamilton said. "It reinforces the fact that we need to do something and it's how the board feels. David is experienced and he's credible, and he helps us to identify the deficiencies we have. The findings will help us be stronger."
The main library is in Greenwood. The system's three branches, located in Lavaca, Mansfield and Hartford, are open part-time, with one part-time clerk at each branch. The board would like to extend the service hours at the branches.
Recommendations from the study suggest more marketing and promotion of the system; revitalizing facilities when time and budget allow; developing a long-term expansion plan for the 5,400-square-foot building in Greenwood; keeping the branches effective by increasing service hours; adding an assistant director to manage branch libraries and coordinate services and programs; adding a new branch in Barling; updating technology to state-of-the-art level; increased improvements in local facilities through city support; and implementing a plan to prepare a mill levy campaign to maximize revenue for operations.
The county's library system is supported by a one-half millage tax, which library director Judy Clevenger estimates brings in about $180,000 in revenue. The study suggested a voter initiative to raise the millage from 1 mill to 1.25 mills to raise the service level.
"The hours in Greenwood are not quite as critical, but we'd ideally like to be open another night," Clevenger said.
Price encouraged the development of more child-based reading programs.
"I think we know, based on research from early childhood literacy, that if there is a reading program established in their life, they have more of a chance for success," Price said.
Clevenger listed programming and space as major concerns with the library system and said the study helps to guide the system along.
"I've seen it grow over last 30 years, and it's increased and improved each year, but we have just maxed out on our space," Clevenger said. "One of the things, when we talked about children's programs, was we need to have space and it really points out our needs in the summer. In order to continue to grow, we need to expand space."
As part of the study, the library board spoke with the mayors of each of the branch communities, in an effort to address help in operating expenses for personnel and utilities.
"They are helping us provide space already and there's a greater need for help," Hamilton said. "We were hoping to find a marriage to share the overhead and working relationship and the other mayors have been trying to help. We made an effort to address and meet the public's needs and we are not going to quit until we can make it happen."
Lavaca Mayor Hugh Hardgrave was receptive to helping.
"We had a great meeting and were impressed with his research. It determines the needs of our system," Hardgrave said. "There's no doubt in Lavaca we need to be open more. We care about the library. This is not the best we can do; we can do better and the best way we can do that is to have it open more."
Hardgrave said he would like to see the finished report and then determine a plan to allow the service hours to be extended at the Lavaca branch.
"We need to do what we can do to help the most people improve their quality of life and libraries are part of that," Hardgrave said.
Clevenger said the study provides motivation to improve the library system.
"This study has given us ideas we haven't thought about and given us suggestions for things that don't cost a lot to help improve visibility," she said. "It's a great opportunity to help us think about expanding."
Price's evaluation should be completed within 90 days, at which point the library board will review recommendations and present to the Quorum Court for approval.
(c)2013 Times Record (Fort Smith, Ark.)
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