Library Faces Increased Costs With Expanded Hours And Use

Published 4:53 pm Thursday, March 7, 2013

FARMVILLE – The Farmville-Prince Edward Community Library is much bigger than it used to be.

Its immense popularity across the area has continued to climb.

And the library is open many more hours than ever before.

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While the library offers its services free of charge, the bills it must pay for such things as maintenance are also larger than ever and the library is facing a shortfall of over $18,000, an amount by which it hopes the Town and County will collectively increase next year's appropriation.

Town and County officials expressed understanding of the library's needs for additional funding, in terms of local government appropriations, and also pointed toward the likely success of private fundraising.

“I'm not sure the general public itself is aware of your needs and they might respond in a real positive manner,” Town Council member Tommy Pairet said during a lunch meeting presentation by the library's executive director Peggy Epperson that also included members of the Friends of the Library organization.

“Most people don't realize that it's funded,” council member Dr. Edward I. Gordon added, “but it's still in need of private money.”

Prince Edward County Board of Supervisor member Jim Wilck offered that he “would be delighted to sell some raffle tickets” were such a fundraising mechanism used to benefit a library that is going to attract its 300,000th visitor before celebrating its third anniversary at the Wilck's Lake site later this year.

“That's an excellent point,” Epperson agreed during the discussion that followed her formal presentation on the library entitled, “We're Just Getting Started.”

Dr. Gordon said he believes the general public feels about the library much as it does toward Longwood University, a state-supported institution and so, the public believes, one that doesn't require private donations and fundraising.

The Farmville physician, who made the largest-ever local donation to LU to launch its nursing program, said he had to be educated to understand the university's financial needs beyond the scope of state appropriations.

“I would think people feel exactly the same way about the library,” Dr. Gordon said. “That it's free and they don't realize that takes money. That's part of what I think needs to be done (educate the public).”

Fundraising “needs to be started here and educate the public. And there will be people who just can't do it but there's probably a percentage of people who can,” Dr. Gordon said, expressing optimism. “When you look at the amount of money that is needed and the number of people out there…”

But local officials seemed ready to increase their own funding level to help meet increased expenses such as maintenance.

“I'm assuming you're asking for more money,” said Town Manager Gerald Spates.

Epperson said yes, and based on the set formula of two-thirds from Prince Edward County and one-third from the Town of Farmville, a division of funding approved by the two governing bodies when they joined to construct the new library.

Spates agreed that funding needs to be replenished and Epperson noted “more local funding gets more state funding.”

The library is facing “a lot more” operational expenses, Spates noted.

In fact, the 19,000-square foot building is open seven days a week for a total of 62 hours a week, the additional hours acting on a request from local officials when the library opened at the new facility.

“You wanted us to expand the hours, and that's good,” said Patty Pugh, of the Friends of the Library, but doing so increased costs.

Additional funding, however, is not needed from the Town or County to see out the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.

When asked by Pairet if the library's needs were immediate or long-term, Epperson answered, “not immediate but long-term.”

Dr. Gordon noted the budget challenges facing the Town of Farmville and Epperson expressed her understanding, telling him “I'm glad I don't have your job.”

The Town Council member said, “We'd all love to say 'Yes'” and said he believed necessary funding would probably be provided in one form or another. But the private fundraising should also be pursued, he said.

Pugh had opened the meeting by thanking local officials, telling them the Friends of the Library wanted them to “appreciate our wonderful library” and learn about everything-some of which they might not know-the library now offers.

In her formal presentation, Epperson illustrated the dynamic growth in library use by residents, pointing out that during that last year at the old location on Third Street near the downtown 42,820 items were checked out. Last year, circulation topped 59,800, a 40 percent increase.

Visits to the library, have almost tripled during the same time, from 38,013 to 101,562.

Supervisor Wilck applauded the growth in library use as “mind-boggling.”

Children's program attendance has jumped by 33 percent in three years, from 1,353 to 1,806 and the variety of programming has grown too.

Teen programs have been added, there is public access internet, including wireless service, and Epperson said some people use the library computers to read their emails. Computer services, in fact, were used over 47,600 times last year.

The Farmville-Prince Edward Community Library is opened more hours than most libraries in the state.

The costs, however, reflect the increased hours and use.

The cost of support staff has increased $23,000 annually, according to Epperson, with building maintenance costs up by $16,500 annually, and utilities climbing $9,718 annually. The public access computing costs $14,043 a year, including tech support, software licenses and printer costs.

The total cost increase, Epperson said, is $63,261 and despite additional local support there is an $18,761 shortfall.

And that figure is the amount of funding increase the library will be seeking from the Board of Supervisors and Town Council for fiscal year 2013-14.

Meanwhile, private donations are gratefully accepted by the library and checks can be made payable to the Central Virginia Regional Library, or CVRL, specifying Farmville-Prince Edward in the check's memo line (donations to the Buckingham branch are also welcomed, specifying it) and mailed to: Central Virginia Regional Library, 1303 West Third Street, Farmville, VA 23901.

“The donations are always appreciated,” a library spokesperson noted this week, “because it's people like that who make these services possible.”