By STEVEN NALLEY
As recently as March, Mississippi legislators had planned to cut funding for several state services, including education, mental health, and libraries. Ginny Holtcamp, director of the Starkville Public Library, said the proposed cuts would have reduced the Mississippi Library Commissionâs budget by about $2 million.
âThis would impact all libraries in our state as we all receive a portion of our budgetÂ through grants from MLC, and also, MLC provides funding for our huge periodicals database, Magnolia.Â However the end result of all of this is that MLC funds were not cut and were funded at the 2011 levels.Â Libraries are urged to thank all of our legislators for this effort and knowledge that our libraries provide essential services to our patrons.â
With this bullet dodged, Mississippi libraries have something to celebrate this National Library Week, set for April 10-16. The Starkville Public Library, in particular, celebrates new Kindles, Nooks, and E-readers available for checkout, thanks to a Library Services and Technology Act grant from MLC.
Yet, Holtcamp says the library still needs more financial aid from its primary funders, the city and county governments. She said the library currently receives $160,000 from each, but itâs been five years since the last funding increase from the county and two years since the last one from the city.
âThis year we hope that our libraries will receive a much-needed increase,â Holtcamp said. âWith costs of books and materials rising always, our libraries need increases on a regular basis just to keep up. Otherwise, each year we purchase less and less, thus our communities fall behind in being able to provide information that customers need and want.â
Holtcamp said it was important for citizens and lawmakers to remember that libraries provide more than selections of books, periodicals, and other media.
âWe provide job searches, job applications and tax forms, just to name a few services that no one else provides our community,â Holtcamp said.Â âLibraries are the great equalizer for our communities.â
Ward 4 Alderman Richard Corey said libraries were far from alone in their budget issues.
âI know that when we looked at our budget last time, we had to be very fiscally conservative across all our outside contributions,â Corey said. âIt wasnât just libraries that were kept at previous yearsâ funding.â
District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer also said with so many projects in need of funding on a budget tightened by Americaâs economic recession, the county was unlikely to increase funding without support from the entire Board of Supervisors. He said he deeply appreciated the libraryâs services, and his wife had spent 3-4 years working there.
âThe only things that weâve been able to increase services for are things that weâve been required to by law,â Trainer said. âThings like employee insurance, those are some prices we couldnât control. Materials and equipment for road construction, those are prices we canât control.â
Holtcamp said the citizens of Starkville could help the library as well, by donating to and joining Friends of the Library. She said they contribute not only monetarily, but also through volunteering and advocacy to aldermen and county supervisors.
âFriends are a tremendous asset to this library and contribute in many, many ways, supporting programs, providing childrens and teen programs and materials, and matching funds to enable the library to receive grants,â Holtcamp said.Â âOur community supports our Friends wholeheartedly - we are fortunate to have such a strong and viable Friends of the Library.â
Cathy Kemp, a member of the libraryâs board, said it also helped for more people to visit and use the library, even though its services are free.
âIt just increases awareness,â Kemp said. âSince we are publicly funded, the more people are active in this, the more theyâre willing to speak to elected officials to say, âYes, we need this service.ââ