Regional Library System board discusses new state funding formula

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By Nick Nunn, Staff Writer

During an Oct. 10 meeting of the Uncle Remus Regional Library System (URRLS) board, board members discussed the state’s new grant funding formula, which will reevaluate professional, state-paid librarian positions will be allocated to library systems beginning in 2015.

In June of 2013, the library directors for the 63 public library systems in Georgia held a fill-day discussion to develop a new state funding formula. The directors indicated that funding state-paid positions was a top priority, and that the number of positions to be funded per system would be allocated by population and area criteria.

According to the state grant formula for the fiscal year 2015, the URRLS will earn eight state-paid librarian positions, and a System Services Grant of more than $11,000 for a total of more than $702,000 in state funding.

The components of the formula indicate that one professional, state-paid librarian position will be allocated to a library system per county covered by the system and per 80,000 population.

The state-paid positions will be paid on a salary range, with the exact amount determined by the director, using job performance as a determining factor. Teachers retirement system, state health benefit plan, and federal insurance contribution act benefits will be added to each salary allocation, and cost-of-living increases will be determined annually.

URRLS Director Steve Schaefer described the new state funding formula as “the best formula of the possibilities” considering the state funding available.

The older state formula simply granted two positions per system, which, according to Schaefer, “drove the pie size down.

“Now, it is equitable,” said Schaefer. “We’re going back up.”

Schaefer noted that working with the funding will still be a challenge, but that “the sting is minimal.”

The funding formula also allows library systems the possibility of utilizing “allied professionals,” such as bookkeepers, IT specialists, youth services specialists, and catalogers, for 50 percent of the allocated positions instead of hiring librarians. Systems may hire two allied professionals per each professional salary allocation.

Schaefer described that possibility as a “biggie” since the “segregation of duties” at contemporary libraries require professional tasks that librarians often aren’t trained to accomplish.

Library systems will also receive a System Services Grant (SSG) for any fraction of 80,000 population that does not earn a position. The SSG can be used for any expenditures, excluding the purchase of land and construction.

During the URRLS meeting Schaefer discussed the financial reports for the first quarter of the fiscal year 2014. Schaefer noted that the largest expenditures of the regional fund so far this year have gone toward building repair and building/bond insurance, but, as a whole, he found nothing distressing in the financial report for the member libraries.

Schaefer also informed the board that all of the member libraries except for Walnut Grove and Greene County are now being serviced by their new internet provider, Level 3 Communications. He estimated that Walnut Grove would be on by Oct. 15 and Greene would follow sometime near the middle of November.

The URRLS board also heard a censorship challenge regarding Eric Jerome Dickey’s book, Decadence.

URRLS Administrative Services Librarian Mary Young explained that there had been concerns raised in one of the member libraries that the book was pornographic in nature.

Young stated that the book was not “overly graphic” and that Dickey’s work is “just a romance book.”

Schaefer described the book as “African-American erotica – light,” and noted that copies of the book are checked out regularly.

The board voted to deny the censorship challenge and leave Decadence on URRLS library shelves.

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