Library aid dwindling

The Union County Library is bracing for another budget cut from the state because of the new budget proposal by Gov. Phil Bryant.

Bryant has proposed cutting state support of libraries by 15 percent next year, which amounts to about $1.8 million. Over the past three years, the state already has cut support by $3.4 million.
State money helps local libraries under three programs: salary supplements for personnel, payment of personnel benefits, and access to electronic data bases of magazines, newspapers and similar items.
The Union County Library got $53,000 in salary money from the state this year. Under the governor’s proposal, that would drop to $41,000, said Sharman Smith, executive director of the Mississippi Library Commission.
“We’re to the point of just trying to survive,” said Kay Sappington, Union County Library director. “We’ll either have to cutback more hours or lay someone off.”
The library has only four employees in New Albany and a part-time employee in Myrtle. State money at one time paid half the personnel costs, but that has dropped to about 25 percent, she said.
Sappington said the library is very busy, averaging more than 300 people a day. The book and materials budget already has been cut to $20,000, which does not go very far in updating the collection, she said.
As the state money has dwindled, county support has remained pretty much static. This is a situation that cannot continue. Our state legislators need to rally support for libraries, and the county library board needs to push supervisors to increase aid at the local level.
 A local library is one of the most important community assets. Ours has too little money to meet the needs of Union County.