Library, county negotiating the cost of extending library hours

zmurdock@beaufortgazette.comSeptember 11, 2013 

County administrator Gary Kubic addresses the Beaufort County Library Board of Trustees at its meeting Wednesday at the Bluffton branch. The group discussed what kind of funding it would need from the county to extend library hours at the Beaufort and Bluffton branches.

STAFF PHOTO

With $300,000 in additional funding, the county library system could expand hours at its Beaufort and Bluffton branches, library system director Wlodek Zaryczny said during a meeting Wednesday of the Beaufort County Library Board of Trustees.

The board voted 7-to-1 to one to ask County Council for that amount to help cover staffing and operating costs needed to increase operating hours at the system's two largest branches from 40 to 50 hours a week.

County administrator Gary Kubic, who attended the meeting, said he will consider the request as part of an ongoing review of the library's budget. The review was requested by County Council Chairman Paul Sommerville. Kubic said he hopes to complete his report in the next two weeks. He will then make a recommendation to county council.

Wednesday's request was the library system's second appeal in recent weeks for more county funding to extend library hours. The first -- seeking $900,000 -- came in an Aug. 21 letter from the board to Sommerville.

That amount would have included technology upgrades and additional staffing at four library branches -- expenses not covered in the 2014 budget County Council approved in late June.

The lesser amount the board asked for Wednesday would allow the library to hire one full- and one part-time circulation employee for both the Bluffton and Beaufort branches, one reference librarian for the Beaufort staff and an assistant systems librarian, according to the proposal.

The total also includes more than $16,600 in additional operating expenses, and $60,000 to hire a consultant for longterm strategic planning.

The library's new proposal extends hours at only two branches instead of four, Zaryczny noted. The Beaufort and Bluffton branches were singled out because they serve the largest communities, he said.

Last week, Kubic met with Zaryczny and library assistant director Jan O'Rourke to discuss the library's budget. After that meeting, he created 14 tasks -- both long- and short-term -- for county and library staff to address. Those tasks were outlined in a memo Monday to County Council.

"We'll fix this year, but I want to figure out what we're going to do three years from now and five years from now," Kubic said.

Those tasks include analyzing what library services are most in demand, what areas of the county use the library most, the impact of e-books and future staffing requirements, Kubic said.

In addition, library staff are combing through the library's budget for expenses that could be cut. That money could be used to extend hours at other branches. O'Rourke will have that information to Kubic by the end of the week, she said.

Follow reporter Zach Murdock at twitter.com/IPBG_Zach.

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