Who am I? My services are free to Beaufort County residents. Last year, more than 473,000 people came through my doors. An amazing 770,000 items were checked out. In addition, 19,800 children and 5,500 adults attended my programs. Who Am I? The Beaufort County Library System.
These statistics show that by no means are libraries outdated because of the Internet. Unfortunately, some in the county have bought into that idea, and the library materials budget has been cut more than $300,000 since 2008. Staffing has been cut 15 percent. This is after Beaufort County Council approved the opening of a new $11 million branch in St. Helena. What were they thinking?
Although fines and fees collected by the library system amount to more than $100,000 a year, that money isn't being used to support library operations. It goes into the general fund and is spent on other things.
Friends of the Library groups have been working hard since 1976 to make our system one of the best in the state. The Hilton Head Friends raised and then contributed more than $60,000 last year alone. Because we exchange materials, all county residents benefit.
The Beaufort County library is a public library and should be supported by public funds, and not be dependent on donations and gifts. A literate work force is necessary for job growth and development. Let's stop draining money from this valuable and necessary resource.
Hilton Head Island
Editor's note: Ford is an outgoing board member of the Friends of the Hilton Head Library.