Frederick County commissioners vote to release library funds -- Gazette.Net


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The Frederick County Board of Commissioners last week voted to release $320,000 in funding for the county library system for the second quarter of fiscal 2013.

Libraries Director Darrell Batson briefed the commissioners on the libraries’ purchasing procedures at their Oct. 11 meeting, after which the board voted 5-0 to approve the release of the second-quarter funding.

Until this year, the commissioners had funded the library system on an annual basis.

The library received $252,031 in the first quarter as part of the county’s $471 million fiscal 2013 budget. It was scheduled to receive the $320,000 approved on Oct. 11 for the second quarter, $251,886 in the third quarter and $274,361 for the fourth quarter.

But in July, Commissioner Billy Shreve (R) objected to providing funding to the system without a better understanding of how the libraries were spending that money.

Under a plan the commissioners approved in July, Batson will report to the board on the spending for the previous quarter before it votes on whether to release the next quarter’s funds.

Shreve’s request was attacked by critics as opening the door for possible censorship of library materials the commissioners don’t approve of, although he has denied that was his intention.

Shreve has said the only way he could see not voting to approve library funding is if the quarterly reports suggest blatant negligence in the purchasing process.

He said on Oct. 11 that the move was to give the commissioners a better understanding of how the library operates and makes decisions. Breaking the expenses down by quarter makes the information easier to digest, he said.

Shreve said he also wants to hear more from residents about what they’d like the library to provide, as well as what it does well and what could be improved.

Batson made his first quarterly report to the commissioners last week.

Rather than deliver a detailed report on the spending for the first quarter, he told the commissioners how the library decides what products it buys and how it disposes of products that are outdated.

The library bought 20,000 titles in the past year, he said, noting that his staff uses more than 50 criteria when selecting books.

For nonfiction books, the staff relies on publishing companies with which they’ve had good experiences in the past, although fiction books must have two positive reviews from respected sources to be purchased, Batson said.

Certain books, such as some self-help titles or books on civil service exams, must be bought every year because they tend to disappear from the shelves, Batson said.

The libraries lose about 1 percent of materials each year because of theft, which is not enough to justify the cost of putting in a security system, he said.

When to get rid of books presents another issue.

Books can only be used for so long before they wear out, Batson said. The library periodically sells books that are being phased out.

The library also contracts with a company named Better World Books, which takes its used boxes and attempts to sell them on eBay. If a book sells, 20 percent of the sale comes back to the library, while 5 percent goes to a county literacy program.

Some books are removed more regularly because they quickly become outdated, Batson said.

Books about law and medicine are taken off the shelf after five years.

Shreve and Commissioners’ President Blaine R. Young (R) said they were satisfied with what they heard from Batson.

rmarshall@gazette.net