Schaeffer calls for funding changes at Democratic meeting
By Ann Cantrell
The Morgan County library is waiting on funds from the state government for construction costs, but these funds may not reach the county library. At a Morgan County Democratic Committee meeting last Thursday, Steve Schaefer, director of the Uncle Remus Regional Library System, the system which the county’s library falls under, spoke about the relationship between state politics and the library system. According to Schaefer, funding for libraries is determined almost entirely by pork-barreling, and Morgan County is out of luck. “If we can get a governor elected from Morgan County, we’d have it made,” said Schaefer. At the meeting, he referred to funding that was recently granted to Houston County, the governor’s home of Warner Robins, over several other counties in the FY2009 state budget.
Funding for libraries by the state is determined by a recommended list by the Georgia Public Library System (GPLS) which the legislature and governor “pick and choose” county libraries to support of reject, said Schaefer.
Morgan County is number 11 on this list and waiting for funding, while Houston County is number 16 on the list and their funding was approved for the state budget. Miriam Baker, manager of the county library, said that funding for materials is needed right now from the state government. Baker went on to say that local funding has been provided but state funding is still needed. Schaefer said that getting funding for library materials is always difficult and their primary way of obtaining support, is begging. “Everyone is for the library, they’re just in favor of someone else funding it,” said Schaefer. If Morgan County is to receive funds for construction, local politicians need to be contacted, reiterated Baker. Baker urged attendees to contact their legislators and push for more funding for libraries. Baker also emphasized that libraries are still very much needed and used by citizens. At least 7000 regulars come through the library every month said Baker. In fact, Schaefer argued that libraries are actually used more today than ever before. “I remember the days in the eighties. The libraries were awfully quiet and that’s not true now,” he said. Pork-barreling did not always control construction costs for libraries said Schaefer. He said that there used to be a time when libraries were popping up all across the state. “At one time, Georgia was building more libraries than all 49 states combined,” said Schaefer. Those days are long gone, believes Schaefer, who attributes all state funding for libraries not to county demographics or the need for funding, but to political or personal connections to the state government.