What will the council do with library funding petition?

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 22, 2006

Is it possible that the long debated subject of the Selma-Dallas County Public Library funding will come to an end tomorrow night at the Selma city council meeting? It is possible, but unlikely.

The turmoil surrounding the library has encompassed our city and county politics for longer than most would like. It all began when the city admitted that their finances were in need for some changes, that the current spending wouldn’t suffice. That recognition led the council and mayor to make some very tough decisions, some of which were reductions in funding to local agencies.

The agency that has garnered the most attention from its loss of funding has been the Selma-Dallas County Library. The principle reason is because of its influence on the younger generation within our communities.

Most recently, supporters of the library initiated a petition requesting funding to be restored. Businesses and residents alike have been diligent in convincing citizens to affix their names to these documents.

The petition reads: “By my signature below, I am requesting that full funding be restored to the City of Selma’s 2005-2006 budget, from which it was cut, for the payment of our Selma Public Library’s ongoing electric and gas utility bills. I further request that this restoration of funding for our library take place immediately.”

The petition will be presented to the city council tomorrow night. There is no doubt the petition will be full with names from people of all ages, races and income levels. The question, though, is what is the council going to do with the information. Will the council address the need in which the people who voted them into office are so passionate? Or will they look the other way and see this as only a ploy against the current administration?

The council and mayor should realize that the community is not going to stop until they hear their cries. The city should restore the funding. However, the city would be wise to negotiate with the current administration of the library for extending hours of operation.

The current hours of operation have been considered an issue when discussing the library’s future, but there hasn’t seemed to be any answers or suggestions for such a compromise.

In reviewing the hours of operation for other libraries, it seems that most are staying open longer than ours. Currently, our library is open Monday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The library in Auburn, Ala. is open Monday through Thursday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Auburn library is also open on Sunday from 2 a.m. to 6 p.m. The Prattville and Autauga County Library is open Monday, Tuesday and Thursday until 9 p.m., while staying open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

Most libraries have hours of operation substantially longer than our library. Doing so ensures those who work have an opportunity to utilize the many great books and services our library offers. It also opens doors for everyone, most importantly children of all ages to access the library.

Supporters will argue that even with the restored funding, extending hours will only deplete an already frail budget. What if rather than adding hours of operation,

a slight extension or change be made? Perhaps, the library should open at 10 a.m. on certain days rather than their normal opening time of 9 a.m. and stay open until 6 p.m. Then on a day or two open at 11 a.m. and keep their doors open until 7 p.m.

Extending hours would eradicate conveniences for some, but could open the doors for others who may not have current access now. It also should resolve some of the council members’ concerns and bring the community closer to receiving the funding it has so desperately sought.

This may not be the answer and it may not be enough to convince the city of Selma to restore the funding to the library, but it could be the start to a resolution.

Jesse Lindsey is the publisher of The Times-Journal.