Armstrong Library leaders explain their funding, practices

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 27, 2000

Between 150 and 250 people visit the Judge George W. Armstrong Library on Commerce Street in Natchez every day, library director Donna Janky said. Despite these numbers, most have do not know how the city’s library works, what its policies are, how it is funded and who runs it.

Until several years ago, the library was jointly operated by the city and county. In what city officials called a &uot;trade,&uot; the county took over administration of the airport, and the city became responsible for the library.

City Clerk Donnie Holloway said the city gives the library $255,000 a year for operation costs.

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A tax increase announced last week sets aside a definite millage for the library, but that does not mean the library will get extra funding, Holloway and Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith said.

&uot;Instead of just scraping (library money) up from wherever we can get it, (the appropriation) is an effort to dedicate where that allocation is coming from,&uot; Smith said.

The library relies on the city for about three-fourths of its total funding, with the remaining amount coming from state personnel grants, Janky said.

Additional money from library fees, late fines and surplus grants also &uot;makes a big difference,&uot; Janky said.

But, those grants are awarded on a year-to-year basis and are never certain.

&uot;The grants you cannot count on,&uot; Janky said.

Fees are collected from patrons using library equipment, such as the photocopier, or requesting special library services, like interlibrary loans.

The Armstrong library is part of a three-member family, including the Kevin P. VanCleave Memorial Library in Centreville and Woodville Public Library.

Library cards are required to check out any item from the library and are free to all Mississippi residents, Janky said. A card can be used at any of the three area member libraries.

Two forms of identification are required to receive a card, one a picture ID — usually a driver’s license — and one showing residence, Janky said.

&uot;We are giving you our books, so we need to know who you are,&uot; she said.

Once identification is presented and the card application is completed, new patrons are allowed to check out two items on the first visit, which must be returned before the card is activated.

This &uot;good faith effort&uot; is a chance for new patrons to prove they can be responsible with the library’s — and the public’s — property, Janky said.

Non-Mississippi residents must pay a yearly fee for a card: $3 for adults and $1 for children. &uot;We really have cheap fees,&uot; Janky said, comparing Armstrong to other area libraries.

Concordia Parish library systems require a $10 fee from patrons who do not work or live within the parish.

The Jonesville branch of the Catahoula Parish system does not charge non-resident fees.

Janky said the library board regularly surveys other libraries within the state and compares practices and procedures.

&uot;Our policies were sometimes lenient, some middle of the road, but in no case were we extreme,&uot; Janky said.

The Armstrong library also provides free Internet access for educational purposes to library card holders, Janky said.

Beginning a few months ago, non-card holders may also use the library’s Internet with a &uot;temporary Internet card&uot; at a cost of $2 for three days, Janky said.

Janky said the change is not the result of public complaint.

&uot;We had been working on it a long time, but weren’t given the chance to explain ourselves,&uot; Janky said.

Just as the city funds the library, the Board of Aldermen appoint the library board members, who serve in rotating five-year terms.

Dr. Clifford Tillman has been on the library board for more than 45 years.

Tillman said he is aware public complaints surrounding the library, including limited operating hours, but limited funding makes changes impossible at this time.

Library hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday. The doors close at 5 p.m. on Fridays and 1 p.m. on Saturday.

&uot;This is something that’s been a problem with us,&uot; Janky said, adding she would like to see Saturday’s hours extended. &uot;We’d dearly love to do something with the hours.&uot;