The Blount County Public Library board of trustees met on Tuesday and among the topics of discussion was the facility’ future.
And it is looking pretty grim.
It’s been a hectic and challenging few months for the library. The library board recently increased the salaries of employees in every department, a move that made sure that the library could help keep employee salaries competitive, helping with recruitment and retention. Paying employees what they are worth, though, has given rise to other funding problems going forward.
Though the library has enough in the budget to cover most of its program needs this year, board members were told during Tuesday’s meeting that there will have to be some significant cuts, according to library Director K.C Williams.
Williams said the library will have to slash its materials budget — meaning books and e-books — by more than half. Other cuts also are on the table.
We get it. Agencies across the state and all over the nation are looking to do more with less. That kind of frugal efficiency is part of what makes our community hum.
But we also believe that one gets what one pays for. And when it comes to the Blount County Public Library, we are getting, quite literally, the very best. On any given day of any given week, the library is a hotbed of activity. Mini-cons, trivia challenges, family storytimes, book sales, chess lessons, Dungeons and Dragons play, learning labs, social media tutorials and computer lessons are just a small sliver of the library’s offerings. These programs benefit everyone — young and old, student and graduate, working and retired.
And let’s not forget the books. Thousands of them, in physical and digital and audio form.
Simply put, the Blount County Public Library is the crowning achievement of county and city cooperation and funding. We’d hate to see it suffer because of a lack of proper funding.
It’s admirable that the library board and its staff are looking for ways to do more with significantly less. It’s also admirable that the library is doing its best to make sure its employees earn an honest wage for outstanding work.
It’s encouraging that the board will be revamping its customer database to find out how many patrons come from Maryville and how many come from other cities and towns. That information will help the county and cities when it comes budget time.
But after all the data is sliced, categorized and analyzed, the simple fact of the matter is that our library is far too important for us not to fully fund.
It provides an invaluable service to the entire Blount County community.
If you’d like more information about library programs or services — or would like to know how you can help — call the library at 865-982-0981 or visit its website at www.blountlibrary.org.
Better yet, stop by the library and have a look around. Once you do, we have no doubt that you will see what we see — a top-notch facility with top-flight employees, all of which are worth every penny.