Our Union County Library is having trouble paying its bills and meeting its payroll.
That, to us, is a sad situation for an institution that is one of the most important assets of any community. We think you can generally get a pretty good idea of a community and its values by the vitality of its downtown, the quality of its public schools and the robustness of its library.
On the first two fronts, we are doing well. The library is a different matter. We limp along from year to year with barely enough money to keep the lights on and employees at the front desk. Buying books? We buy a few with whatever money is leftover.
Library Director Kay Sappington said the library started out with a $35,000 budget for new books this year, but it is down to $11,000 because the money has had to be used to keep personnel and pay operating costs. A $35,000 budget is paltry to keep a library current; $11,000 is abysmal.
The library is many things these days: A place to borrow books, use a computer, do homework, download an e-book, search your genealogy or hold a community meeting to name a few. Libraries are not in decline around the country; they are thriving.
Here in Union County, our library now also is serving as the de facto trailhead for the Tanglefoot Trail. It’s a place to get a map, ask questions and use the restrooms.
Our library needs many things – expanded space, an updated interior, new equipment, remodeled restrooms and, certainly not least, lots more money for books.
It’s well past time for the county and city to increase the operating budget and develop a plan for capital improvements.