Library seeks state funds to expand

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By Jamie Baker-Nantz

Job applicants searching online for employment opportunities, workshop participants learning how to build a better resume, children learning to read or studying after school – these are just a few ways that Susan Nimersheim sees the library being used, especially in tough economic times.

Nimersheim, Grant County’s library director, said because usage of the library continues to increase, more space is needed.

That’s why Nimersheim is joining librarians across the state in asking the Kentucky Legislature to allow them to take advantage of a state construction grant program.

“We don’t even meet the lowest state standards for space at this point,” Nimersheim said.

The Kentucky Public Library Association (KPLA)  is lobbying legislators to fund the grant program, which allows local libraries to take on construction loans or bonding to pay for construction. The state then provides an annual grant to pay a portion of the debt for 20 years. Construction on these projects must begin between July 1, 2012 and June 30, 2014 to be eligible.

Local tax dollars and private contributions would cover nearly two-thirds of the construction costs.

Funding the public library construction grants requires a budget appropriation from the legislature of $2 million in 2012-13 and $4 million a year in fiscal year 2013-14 and beyond.

According to KPLA Advocacy Chairman and Campbell County Library Director J.C. Morgan, 23 counties have identified local library projects and Grant County is one of those.

“We do have preliminary plans for an expansion at the library,” said Nimersheim. “It never hurts to have something ready to go.”

She pointed out that because of the high volume of usage at the Grant County Public Library on Barnes Road in Williamstown, additional space is needed for meetings, housing reading materials and a designated children’s area.

“Right now if we hold a large program, we’ve got two choices, either in front of the windows, where the sound bounces around, or in our community room, where space is limited.

“Last year, we were able to upgrade our Internet service and it was a huge improvement and gives us more technical capabilies because the public wants and expects more from us,” Nimersheim said.

She said the library also needs a designated teen area and more display capabilities.

“In the next few years, I see many more changes such as libraries being expected  to provide more data bases for our citizens,” she said.

Nimersheim said the library has put aside reserve funds for capital improvement projects such as an addition.

She also said before a construction project could begin, the library, which is governed by a five-member board, would have to have enough money in reserves to pay for operating costs associated with an addition.

“You can find money in various places to build a building but if you don’t have the money for operating expenses, then what’s the point?” she said.

The library has also begun several new programs since Nimersheim was hired in 2008, including hiring a part-time outreach employee which is responsible for delivering books and materials to shut ins and nursing homes and a Library Express program, where books can be picked up/dropped off at boxes in Crittenden and Corinth.

The current library building was built in 2003. Library visits increased 57 percent in 2011 and were close to 140,000. There was also a 24 percent increase in circulation with 195,785 items checked out.

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear addressed Kentucky lawmakers on Tuesday, Jan. 17. with a message that is likely to detail state spending cuts of 7 to 9 percent for the next two-year state budget.

Agencies that escaped earlier rounds of cuts are unlikely to receive such exemptions this time around.

Education, which escaped the earlier cuts, is likely to face significant cuts, some key legislators said. Corrections and health care are other areas likely to face cuts in the future.

The governor appointed a commission to review Kentucky’s tax code but it won’t make recommend changes in time to help fix the current situation.

The library board will have to wait until a state budget is approved to see if the grant program is funded.