Circulation growing, budget on point
Spending during this fiscal year at Coweta County’s libraries is about where it should be.
That was the message Hans Wilson, finance director for Coweta County, had for the Coweta Public Library System trustees at their first meeting of the year. During that meeting, trustees also learned usage of the libraries is rising.
Wilson met with the board on Tuesday at Central Library. He gave them an overview of spending during the last fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30.
“Auditors are onsite now at the county. They’ll be finishing up their fieldwork at the end of February. There could be some potential changes to this, but I don’t anticipate too many,” Wilson said.
Powell Library in Newnan spent more than budgeted for utilities, but Wilson said some of those costs may have been incurred prior to recent improvements. Jimmy Bass, library system director, said duct replacement at Central Library may also have pushed number higher than anticipated — but ultimately lowered the ongoing costs.
Wilson said administrative costs should be at 25 percent right now but are are 27 percent. He said that overage can be attributed to fees paid to companies that provide services for the system.
Several of those companies have received their single annual payments since Sept. 30. Removing those contract costs “would take that down to 20 percent,” Wilson said. “We’re looking pretty good with that taken into consideration.”
“That’s commendable,” trustee Norma Haynes said. The board unanimously accepted the financial report.
Bass gave a report on library usage. “The circulation is up right now 6 percent from last year. We had the best December — year to year — that we’ve had in several years,” he said.
Bass said he attributed the increased usage “to good customer service” and to careful spending for new new books and materials with county funds. CPLS staff “enjoy their jobs and go above and beyond to get books in people’s hands,” Bass said.
“Most of the buildings are busy pretty constantly. We have a lot of people coming through the doors,” Bass said. “That’s awesome.”
Bass said all the libraries are offering classes to help people reading Ebooks on electronic readers. Ebook circulation has reached 4,000 — with only 960 ebook titles available.
“That collection is very well used and it will only get bigger and better,” Bass said.
Trustee Karen Cope, who is a librarian, stated she thinks the service is great, but said she really loves books. “I love the feel of the books, the smell of the books,” Cope said.
“I understand exactly how you feel,” Bass told Cope. He predicted continued growth in Ebook circulation, but added the libraries’ patrons “still want the books.”
Tom Dombrowski, chairman of the board, said he loves his Ereader but does not like to use it when “reading something that has a lot of charts or a lot of data.” He asked Bass if there have been studies on when and how people use the readers.
Bass said “popular reading and magazine reading” seem to be the main reasons for reading with the devices.
Trustee Jay Moore was enthusiastic about the trends in the library system. “I’m pleased with what I see, the growth, the numbers, the participation. I think we’re doing very very well,” he said.
Then referencing Bass, he added, “I think he’s doing very very well.”
In other business:
• The trustees talked about honoring a longtime employee and a former board member.
Bill Skelton has been reference librarian at the Powell Library — formerly the Newnan-Coweta Public Library — for 20 years. Bass said he had talked with Assistant County Administrator Kelly Mickle and Patricia Palmer, the county’s community and human resources director, about library personnel.
Longtime employees, like Skelton, served years with the libraries before becoming county employees. Bass said library employees will now be recognized on milestone anniversaries just as other county workers are.
There was discussion among the trustees of recognizing Skelton themselves.
Robert Ward, who shared his expertise when library facilities were being built and upgraded, has been sent a letter from the county thanking him for his service as a trustee. Bass also send a handwritten letter.
The board agreed to write a letter to Ward and have each trustee sign it. “Robert deserves that,” Moore said.
• Bass said there may be a difference in state funding for the local libraries in the future, but he is not expecting it to be a major change. State officials are working to make sure small libraries in rural counties do not close, but they are getting some pushback from large libraries in urban counties.
“They’ve been trying to revamp the formula,” he said. Bass said the current proposal will leave Coweta “about the same,” but he noted the issue is before the state legislature and could change.
“We’ve been treated well by the state,” he said. “The best thing for us is we’re kind of in the middle. We’re a single county system, and our population is growing.”
Some systems pay utilities with their state funds. Bass said CPLS uses it for staff and books. Bass will be meeting with legislators on Monday.
He said he has talked with county officials about the possibility of a small loss in state funds. “They treat us so well. I’m not worried at all,” Bass said.
Of the rural-urban issue, Bass said, “They have a tough nut to crack. There’s going to have to be some sense of equality.”
Moore expressed solidarity with the smaller libraries. “Ten times out of ten — I’ll take David over Goliath any day,” he said.
• Bass told the board the state librarian has left the post. A new state librarian is being sought. That person will also be a vice chancellor for the board of regents.
• The trustees approved board meetings for the remainder of the year. All the meetings will start at 5 p.m.
Meetings will be — April 15, Powell; July 15, Grantville; and Oct. 21, Senoia.