It appears everybody loves a new thing and that seems to be the case with the DeKalb County Public Library.
The DeKalb library branches have seen their facility usage increase in the wake of the remodeling and expansion of old facilities and the construction of new facilities. Seven new library facilities have been constructed since 2009. The new facilities include meeting rooms, designated areas for children and teens, public access computers and self-checkout stations.
The 12,000-square-foot Scott Candler Library in Decatur was the latest facility to open Aug. 20. In September 2011, the old Scott Candler facility had a circulation of 2,700 items and 6,780 people coming to the library, according to DeKalb County Library Director Alison Weissinger. Last month, the new facility had 8,187 come to library, a 20-percent increase, and a circulation of 4,798 items, a 27-percent increase.
The Hairston Crossing branch in Stone Mountain closed in 2009 for expansion and remodeling. Before it closed; the branch had a circulation of 2,882 items a month and 4,900 people using the facility. When it reopened in 2011, the branch had a circulation of 8,000 items a month, a 200-percent increase, and 12,000 people using the facility, a 140-percent increase.
The funding for the library construction comes from a $230 million bond referendum passed by county residents in November 2005. Of that revenue, approximately $54.5 million was allocated for library construction and improvements while the remainder was set aside for transportation improvements and parks and greenspace acquisition.
Weissinger said while she is happy that more people are using the facilities, it is providing challenges for the department.
“Even as we opened all these facilities our funding has remained flat and in certain cases has decreased,” she said. “So, it makes it harder for us to meet the demands because we are not able to buy as many materials as we need to and keep our doors open as much as we need to.”
Last year, budget cuts forced library administrators to trim staff, reduce operating hours, and purchase fewer materials.
“We’re under what we refer to as a reduced schedule where we had to close the regional libraries that had Sunday hours,” Weissinger said. “Most of the other branches got cut back one night and the very smallest branches lost their weekend hours so that we can reassign those staff members to work their weekends at larger branches to keep the larger branches with more resources open on weekends.”
During the fiscal year 2011, the department requested $15.9 million but received $12.5 million. State funding, which represents a smaller share of funding, has also decreased over the past few years.
Even though there are other departments looking for funding, Weissinger said she hopes the county will look at the success of the library and provide additional funding.
“We’ve proven over the years that we’re a very keenly operative system and we provide a lot of direct services to residents on a very small amount of money,” she said. “System-wide we only get less than 2 percent of the general money to operate 22 branches and to provide services to anybody that wants to come use them.”
The library system has two more projects to complete under the $230 million bond referendum–a new Ellenwood branch and the replacement facility for the Brookhaven branch.
“Both of those projects will add to our operating and staffing cost needs, which still haven’t been addressed from our past bond project,” Weissinger said.
Weissinger said they are hoping to break ground for the Ellenwood branch and hire an architecture firm for the new Brookhaven facility in early 2013.