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Scarlotte McAbee, 5, colors with her doll during Story Time at Lawrence County Library on Tuesday. One glaring issue for the library is its lack of space, which is less than half of what the state recommends based on population.
Daily photo by Gary Lloyd
Scarlotte McAbee, 5, colors with her doll during Story Time at Lawrence County Library on Tuesday. One glaring issue for the library is its lack of space, which is less than half of what the state recommends based on population.

Decatur library facing similar financial issues

By Kristen Bishop
kbishop@decaturdaily.com 340-2443

MOULTON — Imagine spending four years and thousands of dollars to earn a college degree just to graduate and get paid the same as a high-schooler flipping burgers at a fast-food restaurant.

That's exactly the case for Regina Anderton-Muncher, a part-time librarian at the Lawrence County Library. Anderton-Muncher has a bachelor's degree from Athens State University, but because of limited funding, the library is unable to pay her a salary that most would expect a college degree to earn.

All library employees, regardless of educational background, start at minimum wage. With the exception of the library director, no employee is full time or eligible for retirement or health benefits.

"I'm obviously not here for the money," said Anderton-Muncher. "I'm here because I want to show at-risk students the kinds of resources that are available to them so they can achieve something more and be their best."

According to Library Director Miranda Ball, the county's annual budget includes only $30,552 for the library. The Lawrence County Commission approved an additional $10,000 for this fiscal year to pay half of the library's utility bill.

The library also receives $40,000 from the city of Moulton and about $38,000 annually from the state. Combined with United Way donations, the total annual budget is about $140,000.

Unfortunately, the state places stipulations on the money it gives to local libraries, said Ball.

"We really can only use about 50 percent of that for salaries," she said. "They want you to use that money for services like books and programs."

The library has eight employees and three regular volunteers.

Ball said she tries to schedule at least three employees to be at the library at all times, but often has trouble maintaining that level of service with a part-time staff.

"To provide the service people are accustomed to, we have to hire more employees, which costs more money," she said. "Plus it's hard to find people to work part time for that kind of money and no benefits."

Hiring problems

Decatur Public Library Director Sandra Sherman-McCandless said she faces the same problems. The Decatur library has about 25 employees, of whom half are part time. She said she has some college-educated employees who have been working at the library for more than 10 years and are making barely more than $8 an hour.

"The only reason they do it is because they love the work," said Sherman-McCandless. "They think it's worth sacrificing a higher-paying job, but they shouldn't be asked to do that."

The Lawrence County Library holds fundraisers throughout the year, but Ball said money raised is generally used to buy books.

The most recent, the Iron Bowl Bash at the Moulton Recreation Center, brought in about $1,000.

"Our fundraisers are usually for books," she said. "No one wants to give you money for salaries."

Ball has compiled a report comparing the Lawrence County Library to state recommendations that she will present to the commission Monday at 9 a.m. She said the report is only to inform commissioners and she will not be formally requesting extra funds at that time.

"There are a few new commissioners, and I just want to bring them up to speed," she said. "They all seem to be very interested in the library, so maybe if they see where we need help, they can help us get it."

Lack of space

One glaring issue uncovered in the report is the library's lack of space. It has less than half of what the state recommends based on population.

According to the Alabama Public Library Service, libraries should have 0.4 square feet per capita. The current population of Lawrence County is about 34,000.

"Based on those figures, we should have 13,260 square feet," she said. "We have roughly 5,000 square feet. It's going to get to the point where we have no room for books."

The state recommends libraries have 1.5 items per resident. Items include books, magazines, videos and other publications. The Lawrence County Library has about 0.69 items per capita but is quickly running out of room.

The number of items is another area where the Decatur Public Library is struggling as well. For the Wheeler Basin region, which includes the Decatur library, the state recommends two items per capita. The library holds only 0.62 items per resident.

Exceeding state standards

There are a few areas where the Lawrence County Library is exceeding state standards. For example, the APLS calls for libraries to be open at least 40 hours per week and to provide basic Internet service. The Lawrence County Library is open to the public 48 hours per week and offers DSL and wireless Internet access.

"I think we do a great job with the resources we have," said Ball. "I'm presenting this information (to the commission) on Monday to see if they have any suggestions on how we might do things better."

Breakfast with Santa

Santa Claus will be taking last-minute gift requests at the Lawrence County Library on Dec. 23 from 8 to 10 a.m. Children and parents are invited to eat breakfast and have pictures taken with Jolly Ole St. Nick. Admission is $5. For more information, call the library at 974-0883.

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