'Cadillac' or 'Chevy' Library System? CARROLL COUNTY

April 05, 1993

Carroll County has one of the best library systems in the state. The commissioners should do all they can to ensure that it retains that status instead of expressing hostility toward county libraries, as they did recently. A good library system says volumes about a community and its feelings toward knowledge, learning and its heritage.

During their review of the library budget, the commissioners indicated, in several disparaging remarks, that Library Director Martha Makovsky had gotten accustomed to requesting "Cadillacs" rather than Chevies and that librarians earn too much money. The county may have a Cadillac of a library system, but every dollar spent has been well worth it.

Of all the government institutions in Carroll, the five full-service library branches offer the most benefits for the greatest number of people. The county's bright, well-stocked facilities contain a wide variety of books, periodicals, journals, recordings and videos accessible to people of all ages, education levels and economic status. Judging from the heavy traffic through the branches, these libraries have become an integral part of many people's lives. Moreover, Carroll's libraries have established a high level of service. County residents expect that such service will continue.

During the recent period of fiscal austerity, library expenditures haven't grown. In an effort to stay within the budget, the system is spending about half as much on new materials as it did two years ago. If this continues, it is a prescription for disaster. Paring the materials budget is like cutting back on sleep; it catches up with you.

Under the proposed budget, purchases of new materials will account for about 13 percent of spending. The rule of thumb is that a library must spend between 20 percent and 25 percent of its budget to maintain a current collection and replace worn volumes. Despite these reductions, Carroll's collections are still relatively current and complete.

Rather than casting aspersions on Ms. Makovsky's efforts on behalf of the county libraries, the commissioners should be bestowing accolades on her for the development of a first-rate system during her 23 years as director. They should also be careful when wielding the budget scalpel to ensure that Carroll's libraries retain their effectiveness.

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