Always busy

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Board urges County Council to check out library system

By Chris Sardelli

Forgoing the usual presentation of architectural diagrams or lists of desired funds, two library board members instead urged Lancaster County Council to take a field trip.

Library director Richard Band and library board member Tommy Myers both appeared at council’s Monday, Jan. 28 meeting to discuss capital improvement needs for the county’s libraries, though they decided council needs a more first-hand experience.

“Tonight I’m not bringing you floor plans or blueprints. As a member of the library board I invite you to the library, a few blocks from here on White Street, to see what goes on there,” said Band, who has worked with the library for more than 30 years.

“I know you’re all extremely busy and I know instead of presenting you with more building plans you should stop in and I’ll show you what services we provide,” he said.

Myers lauded Band for his management of the library system and asked council to help boost the library’s effectiveness.

“Richard has done an outstanding job with limited resources. We in Lancaster County are very, very fortunate to have him,” Myers said. “We’re not here to make a proposal or ask for a lot of money. We’ve done that in 2010. But we do have detailed plans and hopefully you’ll approve us sharing them with you in the very near future.”

Myers told council his job is to ensure the effectiveness of the library system and to ensure they have proper and adequate resources to help serve the public. He urged council members to stop by their local library and take a look around at the numbers of residents who visit and what services they are using.

“What are you going to see when you visit? I go in and sit down in the library and sit in the front and just watch what’s going on,” Myers said.

There’s tremendous diversity coming in and out, all walks of life in Lancaster County and a lot of the less-fortunate economically.

The most used service, hands down, are the library’s computers, he said.

“You’ll see computer banks set up that are practically always full, in the middle of the room with little to no privacy, but people use them for job searches,” he said.

With most employers now requiring job seekers to fill out online applications, Myers said the library system is in dire need of more computers.

“I had someone very important in the county tell me we don’t need that and we should have them go fill out applications. But what they don’t realize is some places don’t accept them except online,” he said.

Myers also boasted about the library’s many children’s programs and events, though he said library staff is rapidly running out of room.

“We have wonderful programs for children and no place to do them,” Myers said. “These are just a few of the many, many needs we have. We’d just ask please look at our library. See our services. See our needs.”

Neither Band nor Myers presented any specific budgetary needs to council and council did not take any action during the meeting.

Previous requests

This is not the first time Band has appealed to council for additional funds to improve the county’s library system.

In 2010, Band fought against a proposed 10 percent cut for library services as Lancaster County Council debated its 2010-11 county budget.

The cut would have eliminated one full-time and several part-time employees, and would have forced furlough days for remaining staff and drastic cuts to materials and services.
Council ultimately reduced that to a 1 percent cut, deciding to raise county taxes to help with funding.

At the time, Band said the county's libraries received 80 percent of their funding from the county, 15 percent from the state and 5 percent from donations, fees and fines.

Also in 2010, Band told council of his desire to renovate the county’s main library. He said the 16,000-square-foot facility, built in 1969, needs to be expanded to create space for a staff area and computer lab.

Plans were drawn up several years ago to expand the library by almost 3,000 square feet, using the empty lot near it on Marcus Street.

Band said one proposal had an estimated price tag of $6 million, though that amount has never been considered in council’s budget.