Friday, December 18, 2015

TOP STORY >> Rescuing a library in Ward

Leader staff writer

The Ward Public Library could remain open as an independent community library if the city chooses to run it.

A decision must be made before the Lonoke County Library System closes it on Dec. 31.

The Lonoke County Library System board on Tuesday unanimously approved the option to leave the Ward Library with two computers, furnishings, shelving and the $242,000 collection of library materials — minus the books needed to complete book series at the Cabot, Carlisle, England and Lonoke public libraries — if the city of Ward wants to manage the library with its own staff and resources.

Ward already maintains the building, covers the insurance premiums and pays the utility bills.

If the city declines, then the Lonoke County Library System will pack up all the books and materials to be absorbed into the other four libraries.

“This was an option that we didn’t consider early on. We made several attempts to speak with the city council and the mayor, but he is out of town this week. It is not feasible for us to continue running the (Ward) library,” board chairman Adam Simon said.

More Ward Library patrons are using other libraries. Lonoke County Library System director Deborah Moore said, as of a week ago, Ward Library patrons living in the Ward 72176 zip code, 31 percent use the Ward Public Library. Most use the new Cabot Public Library. Less than 1 percent use the Lonoke, Carlisle and England libraries.

Simon said the Ward library would have to use a card catalog sign-out process to check out books. He said the computerized checkout services at the Ward facility are cost-prohibitive for Lonoke County Library system.

It costs around $100,000 annually for the staff, services and resources needed to manage the Ward Library.

“Maybe they can man it with some part-time or volunteer help,” Simon suggested.

Moore said, “They have an excellent collection. The value of their collection is $242,000 worth of library material. They would be left with a wonderful base and not have to add to their collection except for new books for quite some time.”

The Leader spoke with Mayor Art Brooke on Wednesday.

He said, “We want to keep the library open, and the city council would likely want to keep it open, too.”