Fort Mill Times

Ecomony impacts local libraries

Longer waiting times for bestsellers is becoming commonplace at local libraries and that's not likely to change anytime soon, according to officials.

Like everything else these days, the economy is getting the blame.

The Fort Mill branch of the York County Library and the Del Webb Library at Indian Land, which is part of the Lancaster County Library, are feeling the pinch from decreased state funding.

The York County Library system, which has a main library in Rock Hill and branches in Fort Mill, Clover and Lake Wylie, received $120,000 less this year in state funding. The Lancaster County Library system, which operates out of a main branch in Lancaster and has branches in Indian Land and Kershaw, received $41,000 less in state funding during the fiscal year.

The Del Webb branch has been open for less than year.

The fiscal year ends in June, but both library systems expect more declines in state funding. Those state funds directly impact the libraries' ability to buy books and library materials, York County Library Director Colleen Carney said.

"When money gets that tight, sooner or later our users will feel it, which means longer hold lists for bestsellers, buying fewer copies . . . but we're doing the best we can," Carney said.

The Del Webb Library at Indian Land, which opened in November, is also suffering from the decrease in state funding.

Richard Band, director of the Lancaster County Library, said that in Indian Land the money raised for the new library via fundraisers helped soften the blow of decreased state funding. But while the library's basic collection is in good shape, he said, with many popular books and bestsellers, few "backup materials," such as multiple copies of popular books, large print books and reference materials, are available.

"We have quality," Band said. "But not a lot of quantity."

Programs, such as preschool story time, are not being affected by budget cuts at either the Indian Land or Fort Mill Library, directors said.

At least, not yet.

In Lancaster County, programs are funded by donations and fundraisers held by the Friends of the Library groups. Donations to the group are down, Band said, and Band anticipates having to cut some programs this year.

Band is also waiting for the Lancaster County Council to finish its budget for 2009-2010 to see what impact it may have on the county's libraries. Band asked for $30,000 more for the library this year to account for the costs of having the Del Webb Library open the entire fiscal year. During the last fiscal year, it was only open for six months.

When the county revealed its preliminary budget last week, that $30,000 increase was not included.

The council continues to work with the budget, but if the figures remain the same. Band said he will have to consider reducing library hours or furloughs for staff members.

In York County, programs are funded by the county's budget. So far, the library's funding has remained stable, and Carney expects the upcoming fiscal year to be no exception.

"We are fortunate that we have great support from the local county council and that our area hasn't taken the hits the rest of the country has," Carney said.

The annual meeting of the Friends of the Del Webb Library will be held 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 19, in the meeting room of the library. The group's bylaws will be up for approval and voting for officers will be held. Only those whose membership dues are current will be eligible to vote. Membership forms are available at the library or at www.lanclib.org.

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