Library trustees approve budget for 1996 new acquisitions are a top priority

November 20, 1994|By Phyllis Brill | Phyllis Brill,Sun Staff Writer

The Harford County Board of Library Trustees Thursday approved a fiscal 1996 budget wish list that puts updated books and materials at the top of its priorities.

The library is asking for an $8.45 million operating budget in fiscal year 1996, which begins next July 1. Nearly $1.5 million would be devoted to new materials, including adult and children's books, reference works and audiovisual needs.

"Our collection is just not meeting the needs of the public," said Irene Padilla, Harford County Library director.

She said that a survey of patron satisfaction conducted over the last three years has consistently indicated that "we don't have the titles people want."

In addition, she said, "a good part of our nonfiction collection has a copyright of 1985 or earlier. That's not good enough."

Mrs. Padilla said librarians are frustrated by their inability to answer many reference questions because of inadequate resources.

"We're about 20 percent lower than the national average -- which is 86 percent -- in the number of reference questions we are able to answer adequately," she said, referring to an annual survey that is taken in libraries nationwide.

Reference questions might vary from who holds a certain batting record in baseball history to the side effects of a new prescription drug.

The proposed 1996 operating budget represents a $2.3 million increase over this year's budget of $6.15 million.

Mrs. Padilla said the second priority is to open the library 18 hours more a week. That would cost an estimated $86,412.

The library system substantially reduced its hours of operation, particularly on weekends, in 1992 because it could not afford to pay employees to staff the branches.

This fiscal year, the library system received enough money to restore 22 operating hours a week. The money to keep the branches open an additional 18 hours a week next fiscal year would allow branches in Joppa, Edgewood, Whiteford, Norrisville and Fallston to open on Sundays from October through May.

Now, only the Bel Air and Aberdeen branches are open on Sundays.

Other key requests in the new budget include $303,032 for employees' cost-of-living and step increases totaling about 6 percent, Mrs. Padilla said.

She noted, however, that library employees will be subject to the same pay increase as other county employees.

The library is asking for a $169,474 increase in its base budget, which includes the cost of utilities, telecommunications, computer software and other maintenance and supply costs.

Its proposal also includes $166,060 for office, computer, automotive and other equipment.

The budget will be presented to County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann within the next few weeks. She will meet with the library trustees to discuss their proposal early next year and will draft a county budget to be sent to the County Council by April 1.

In other business Thursday, the trustees heard an update by James Massey, coordinator of administrative services, on the library's compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The library has spent $33,279 in federal and local grants in the last two years toward bringing the nine branches up to code, he said. Included in that was the adjustment of door closures at all branches and administrative headquarters in Riverside, and the installation of automatic door openers in six branches where they did not already exist.

Mr. Massey said the money also was used to make public access computer stations accessible and to install FM systems with earphones and receivers for hearing-impaired staff and HTC patrons to use at meetings held at branch sites. The grant consisted of $13,380 in federal money, $10,000 in a county grant and $6,299 provided by the library.

"We were probably the first in the area to have some of these things completed," he told the board. "We're a lot further along than the county in general."

He said changes were made in each of the libraries that were not covered by grant money, for such things as relocating equipment, replacing hardware and lowering water fountains.

The priorities for future ADA grant money will include installing ramps at Aberdeen, Fallston, Havre de Grace and Joppa branches; modifying curbs at Riverside; renovating rest rooms at Aberdeen, Fallston, Havre de Grace, Joppa and Whiteford; and replacing some doors in Aberdeen.

The trsutees also learned that the county earlier this month requested bids from four companies for architectural designs for renovating and expanding the Bel Air Library. The four were chosen from an initial list of nine interested firms.

Mrs. Padilla said the bids are due by mid-December.

She said more than 20 companies have expressed interest in the construction management position, a new post conceived by county officials. That person or company will work for the owner, in this case the library, to oversee the construction schedule, coordinate construction and architectural functions, and ensure that contractors adhere to specifications.

She said she hopes the architectural firm and construction manager will begin work by early January.

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