Endowment for libraries established Trustees OK bequest with eye to financing renovations, projects

'Keeping local money local'

$6,000 in donations sets up income source from private funds

September 30, 1996|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

To bolster the financial future of Carroll County's public libraries, the library system's board of trustees has approved the creation of an endowment to pay for renovation and expansion work and other projects.

The board last week approved an agreement with the Community Foundation of Carroll County to manage the fund, which will be established with $6,000 in donations to the library, mainly from residents.

"We are looking for ways to make our limited resources go a little farther and attract some additional funds that aren't directly related to texts," said Scott Reinhart, assistant director of the county's library system.

Reinhart said possible uses for the endowment income could include the renovation and expansion of a library branch or a smaller improvement project, such as replacing the 16-year-old carpet at the Westminster branch.

Established nearly three years ago, the foundation is a nonprofit organization that has set up endowments for other nonprofit entities in the county, including Human Services Programs, Christmas in April and the Greater Westminster Development Corp.

"It's a way of keeping local money local, a way of focusing on the needs of the community that you're sitting in," said Audrey S. Cimino, the foundation's executive director.

An endowment is a vehicle to permanently set aside money that will generate a stable source of income.

"The purpose of this is to become less dependent on public money," Cimino said.

Increasingly, more libraries nationwide and their supporters are establishing funds to supplement the public money they get, according to the American Library Association.

Carroll's library board began to explore the idea of creating an endowment to accept donations after county officials threatened to cut the library system's budget by $644,525 this fiscal year, or 14 percent.

The County Commissioners eventually cut the library's budget by $100,000 after raising Carroll's property tax to fund government services.

But the library's trustees were struck by the book-borrowing public's reaction to the proposed cuts. Library patrons turned out in large numbers at public budget forums to protest the possible elimination of 30 library jobs and a reduction in services.

"When we were in the worst part of the budget crunch all kinds of people were suddenly saying, 'I'd be glad to pay $5 for a library card,' " said Jill Kartalia, a library trustee. She noted that charging for a public library card is illegal.

"The endowment is offering people an opportunity to make a very small donation from time to time, or substantial bequests," she said.

Statistics show that local library patrons make frequent use of their library cards.

According to state figures for 1995, Carroll's public library system had the highest per capita circulation rate of any in the state, with each county resident checking out an average of 21 items in 1995. By comparison, Baltimore County was second with an annual rate of 16, and Baltimore City ranked last with a yearly per capita circulation rate of 2.

"Our branches are really busy," Reinhart said.

Under the terms of the library board's agreement with the foundation, the endowment fund will accumulate for three years before any income withdrawal. The board, which will determine how the endowment money will be spent, has not identified specific projects to be financed with income from the fund.

Trustees said the endowment fund is not meant to pay for basic library operating expenses covering books, materials and salaries. The county library system, which includes administrative offices and five branches, has an annual budget of about $4.5 million.

Pub Date: 9/30/96

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