Staying in regional library system is best

I’m writing another letter with an update from my time on the Wilkes Library Research Committee, which was tasked with exploring staying in the Appalachian Regional Library system or becoming independent. My top five reasons for remaining a full member of the Appalachian Regional Library follow.

1. It’s best for our collection and resources. In our Oct. 18 meeting, State Librarian Timothy G. Owens and Catina Jones, director of library development, said staying in a regional library system is the best choice for rural libraries. We have an outstanding collection chosen by our county librarians and it stays in Wilkes. The Appalachian Regional Library is made up of four libraries in Ashe, Watauga and Wilkes counties. We can borrow books and DVDs and have access to all events and collections in the other two county libraries. We have a courier position for moving books throughout the three counties, with the cost shared by all three. If you want a book and it’s in Ashe County, reserve it and the courier will bring it within a day.

2. It’s best for our program offerings, especially the children’s summer reading program. There are book clubs for all ages, art clubs, and volunteer opportunities. You can research your family history and listen to live music. I have brought my children to programs at the library since they were born. All of this is because we, as Appalachian Regional Library, mutually funded this. The Wilkes County Library couldn’t afford it alone. We are investing in our children and our community by providing high quality programming for those who might not otherwise have access.

3. It’s best for the library organization and expertise. Through our Appalachian Regional Library membership, we have a dedicated technology expert who deals only with our four libraries and handles all technical infrastructure- the phone system, the email system and the Cardinal system, which lets us borrow from many other libraries in North Carolina seamlessly. The tech expert handles all problems with the program and communicates with the state library in Raleigh when there are questions. We have a courier who distributes all materials within our three-county region. County Librarian Suzanne Moore plans events, purchases materials and does long-term planning for Wilkes library. We benefit from the expertise of Regional Librarian Jane Blackburn, who writes grants and handles long-term planning, among other tasks. We have experts running our library, and we benefit from the expertise of others. Since the regional librarian hires the county librarians, we are assured of having professional librarians.

4. It’s more cost-effective. A study by County Manager John Yates resulted in estimated first year costs around $529,784 if Wilkes leaves the regional system. This would be in addition to $824,020 now budgeted by the county for 2021-22. We receive money from the state in addition to our state funding because we’re part of a regional system. Wilkes County Library receives $145,621 per year in state aid as part of the regional library, but if the commissioners decide to withdraw our library, we will only receive $119,798 per year.

5. Staying in the regional system is a safe path forward and has produced solid results since 1962. Our money is well spent, clearly tracked and efficiently used. We have professional librarians who know what they are doing. Wilkes County has a top-notch library, and we are stronger as a part of the regional system. It’s unclear why the county commissioners proposed exiting the regional system. If they’re serious about offering more services, they could spend more money on the library. The commissioners could pay our librarians more. Keeping the Traphill Branch open is expensive, but with more money it could be open more days. The commissioners have mentioned having a bookmobile and reopening the Ronda Branch. Restoring funds could bring these two programs back.

A Wilkes Library Research Committee member who is on the Wilkes Library Board said he wants a person who reflects Wilkes County values as county librarian, but he said the library board is happy with the current county librarian, hired in July. This person said he wanted more Wilkes control over the library, but we do have control over our library. All of the ideas we’ve taken to the regional library board (composed of four people from each county library board) have been approved. Our regional librarian is supportive of our library and county library board.

Please tell the county commissioners why you want the Wilkes library to remain part of the regional library system. Commissioner Casey Joe Johnson is on the Wilkes Library Research Committee and Wilkes Library Board. Commissioner names and email addresses are at https://wilkescounty.net/221/Board-of-

Commissioners.

HEATHER TEDDER,

Wilkesboro, N.C.

Thanks for sparing magnificent oak tree

I would like to thank Randy Marion of Randy Marion Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram in Wilkesboro and/or his crew for sparing the magnificent oak tree at the back of the dealership’s property on Winkler Mill Road. I have admired that tree for as long as I can remember and when I realized the house beneath it was being removed, I was so sad thinking the tree would be destroyed as well. I was beyond words when I realized it was being saved. Thank you so much.

MARY K. BARFIELD

Millers Creek NC

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