It’s the end of the Iredell County Public Library. Well, it’s not the end, but there are going to be some changes due to the recent budget cuts. Starting July 1, 2010, the headquarters library in Statesville will start being closed on Sundays. The new hours of operation will be 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturdays. The hours at the Harmony Library will be Tuesday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The J. Hoyt Hayes Memorial Library in Troutman will be open Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 a.m. The decision to close on Sundays rather than closing earlier during the week was based on a comparison of the number of people using the library during the past year. The numbers show that closing an hour earlier at night during the week over the past year would have affected approximately 66,500 people while closing on Sundays would have affected approximately 57,600 people. In addition, closing on Sundays will also save on utility costs for that day.
Certain fees at the library will also be increasing. Beginning July 1, computer printouts will increase from 10 cents to 30 cents per page. This increase is necessary to cover the cost of the paper and ink cartridges needed for printing. Out-of-county users who use the library’s Internet computers as guests will now be charged a fee of $2.00 per session. Out-of-county users who wish to purchase a library card will be charged $20.00 a year starting July 1, with no exceptions allowed for those working, teaching, or attending school in Iredell County. The library is in the process of getting new computers to replace the ones that are aging out, but we will not be purchasing software like Microsoft Word or Excel. Users in the future will need to use one of the free online document services such as docs.google.com to open or type their documents. The library’s materials budget has been cut meaning we have less money to purchase new books. The library will no longer be purchasing DVD’s nor replacing the ones we have. Our periodicals will be greatly reduced. In the future we will only be subscribing to the Statesville Record & Landmark, the Mooresville Tribune, and the Charlotte Observer. The only magazine the library will be getting will be Consumer Reports.
Patrons may also notice an absence of some long familiar faces at the library after July 1, as all 16 of the library’s part-time employees are being laid off. This is the most painful cut of all as some of these people have worked for the library for many years. Their dedication, service, training, and experience will be impossible to replace. It would be easy to just blame county government for all these changes, but in truth the county commissioners and county manager have all been strong library supporters through the years. In April, 2005 we moved into our new 54,000 square foot building on Tradd Street. The Iredell County Public Library $6.5 million headquarters building is the 12th largest in the state. This month we opened a new branch library in Troutman at a time when very few libraries are being opened across the country. We also have to consider the strong support Iredell County government gives library service in Mooresville. For instance, during fiscal year 2008 – 2009 Iredell County contributed $1,395,466 in budget money in support of the Mooresville Library compared to $198,552 contributed to Hickory City Library by Catawba County.
Iredell County government revenues have gone down as the economy has slowed. Sales revenues and fees have dropped meaning the county has less money to spend while expenses have gone up. The only solutions are either to raise taxes, make cuts, or go into a deficit. A tax increase would be tough when people are already out of work and families are struggling, while spending more than we can afford would only lead to the type of deficit troubles we have at the federal level. For now, the library and its patrons must deal with the cuts.
Support among the public for the library and library services remains strong and with the current economic turndown the need is greater than ever. The Iredell County Public Library like all other county departments see the cuts as just another challenge to be met and remain dedicated to providing excellent service to the people of Iredell County.
Joel Reese, Local History Librarian
Iredell County Public Library
This article was published in the Statesville Record and Landmark in June 2010