The budget for the Beaufort County Public Library system has already been drastically cut to account for shortfalls.
The new proposed cut in library hours will be to compensate for the 30 percent loss in staff that already has occurred over the past two years. The county has not allowed any positions to be filled. Among those eliminated positions are branch managers, and children's library staff. The result is that many of our valued librarians and their community programs are gone. This includes most, if not all, children's reading programs. Last year, the summer reading program was bigger than ever, with more than 2,000 children participating between Hilton Head and Bluffton. This year it is in jeopardy because of the reduced staff.
The Friends of the Library groups do what they can. Hilton Head Friends gives our library system more than $70,000 a year for programs, materials and equipment. In addition, this year we matched the Hilton Head materials budget with a grant of $78,000. Bluffton and Beaufort Friends provide much needed support as well. The library system is being proactive in trying to alleviate costs by installing a self check-out system.
The county needs to look elsewhere for budget cuts. Our libraries and programs have already paid the price. Libraries are an invaluable resource to everyone in the community. Will the next step be to close the libraries? Would you move to or even want to visit a community that didn't have a library?
Lynne Miller, president
Friends of the Library
Hilton Head Island