Julie Walker, who serves as state librarian and associate vice chancellor of libraries for the University System of Georgia, addressed members of the Baldwin County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday night related to concerns about the Twin Lakes Library System.
She was among 10 people, all of whom compassionately spoke about the importance of fully funding the libraries so they can remain open in downtown Milledgeville, as well as the Lake Sinclair Branch, located off Log Cabin Road.
Each was given three minutes to address commissioners during the public comment portion of the meeting.
“I realize that you all are taking a series of complex issues here in Baldwin County, but I’m here tonight to specifically address the issue of funding for the Twin Lakes Library System,” Walker told commissioners.
She explained that in her role as state librarian she works with all 62 library systems in Georgia, which includes 406 libraries across the state — at least one in every county.
“And I’m here to tell you that the Twin Lakes Library System is right at the top of our list with the most impressive, innovative and customer-focused libraries in the state of Georgia, and indeed the southeast,” Walker said, as big applause erupted from the standing room only crowd.
Stephen Houser, executive director of the local library system, and his staff, and members of the library’s board of trustees go far beyond the extra mile to serve the students and families of Milledgeville and Baldwin County, Walker pointed out.
“This exceptional library system is now imperiled,” Walker said. “Libraries in Georgia represent a partnership between the state and local government funding agencies. State grants to public libraries are contingent upon sustained local funding. Public library funding is primarily a local government responsibility with state funds to enhance services and programs.”
Walker said there is a maintenance of effort requirement in order to qualify for state funds and that the state cannot supplement any library system that is not adequately supported by its local taxing authorities.
“If local funding, as indicated, is drastically reduced for fiscal year 2020, the Georgia Public Library Service and its parent agency, the University System of Georgia, will have no choice but to withhold the state grants for the Twin Lakes Library System beginning in July 2019,” Walker said.
She said state funds would amount to approximately $160,000 and that those funds would not become available to the Twin Lakes Library System up until such time as the funding obligations of local governments were met.
“This includes your state grants for salaries, system services and materials, as well as for technology funds, grants, and major repair and renovation funds,” Walker said. “Additionally, the State of Georgia provides benefits on behalf of library systems, including the PINES system, which checks out your books and is your online catalog.”
Several other services also would be unavailable without local government funding.
One such service would include the new children’s digital library.
Walker said it was hoped that local officials would honor their commitment to the citizens of Milledgeville and Baldwin County by fully funding the local library system in accordance with the maintenance of effort requirement.
“We are certain you do not want to be the only county in Georgia without a public library,” Walker said.
As she walked away from the podium, she again received a big round of applause from the more than 70 people allowed inside the commission chambers.