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Operating costs climbing

Increased usage, higher operating costs and aging equipment areprompting library officials to ask city and county leaders foradditional funds for the new year.

Lincoln Lawrence Franklin Regional Library Director Henry Ledetand its board of trustees presented funding requests earlier thisweek to the Lincoln County Board of Supervisors and the BrookhavenBoard of Aldermen. The requests were taken under advisement,pending other budget decisions by the respective boards later.

The library is asking the county for $200,000, an increase of$40,350 over this year. The city has been asked to give $95,000, up$6,000 from the current year.

“We think that is a really good investment in your community,”Ledet said about funding during the city meeting.

During the meetings and later, Ledet discussed reasons forseeking the increases. He said utilities and supplies are costingmore each year, and the library needs to develop a system forreplacing its computers.

“Equipment is getting really old,” Ledet said. “If we don’treplace (computers) along the way, we’ll have a massivebreakdown.”

Citing library totals, Ledet also pointed out that 250 people aday used the facility in 2003. Also, almost 3,000 people attendedprograms at the library that year and totals for 2004 were expectedto show a dramatic increase.

“More and more people are coming in, and we need more money toprovide the services,” said Ledet, adding that the library recentlyconcluded its most successful Summer Reading Program ever.

Ledet said funds are needed to replace books as they becomeoutdated or damaged.

Of the library’s $92,529 materials budget, he said about $52,000is spent on books and the rest on magazine subscriptions, videosand similar items. Almost 85,000 items, such as books or otherlibrary materials, were checked out in 2003.

The library’s annual budget is around $600,000, with countiesand municipalities in the Lincoln, Lawrence, Franklin systemproviding the largest portion of revenue, Ledet said. Other fundingcomes from state sources and federal grants.

“Any time we hear about a grant, we apply for it,” Ledetsaid.

The library received a $25,000 federal grant and assistance fromthe Brookhaven Trust to archive more than 100,000 photos from JohnWilliams collection. Among the photos by the former owner of theArt Studio are images of weddings, oil field and logging activityand of the Episcopal church being built.

“They’re a treasure trove,” Ledet said.

The photo collection was donated to the library by StateBank.

The library project involved digitizing and putting some imageson the library’s Web site and preparing them for archival storage.Ledet said officials are planning to complete the project bymid-summer 2005.

This year, Brookhaven and Lincoln County officials funded thelibrary at the same level as the previous year. City officials saidTuesday they would consider the library’s funding request duringbudget discussions for the new year that starts Oct. 1.

Historically, said County Administrator David Fields,supervisors have tried to give percentages increases across theboard for agencies supported by the county. Based on that, he saidthe library could see an increase next year or be funded at thecurrent level again.

“It is not known what their decision will be this year until wereceive all the funding requests,” Fields said. “We’ve still gotsome things to be looked at.”

Ledet was understanding about tight budget times, but he washopeful that an improving economy could allow the library toreceive more funds for the new year.

“We appreciate the funding we get,” said Ledet, while alsomentioning supervisors’ assistance on a library expansionproject.

Supervisors approved a $500,000 bond issue to match state fundsfor the expansion. That project was completed last summer.