Those who've been in the County during the past 5 years are aware that the Library has taken it on the chin when it comes to funding. The Library was clobbered with a budget cut from $4.9 million in fiscal year 2011 to $3.5 million in fiscal year 2012, with a further reduction in FY 2013 to $3.4 million. The County budgeted $3.9 to the Library system in FY 2014 and FY 2015. It was decided to minimize the effect on public services caused by staff reduction due to attrition and no hiring, and maintain hours of operation as long as possible. By June 2011, hours had to be reduced at the three regional branches to a sustainable 40 hours per week. The Library's desire to serve County residents as best we can, coupled with political pressure, led to an administrative decision to add 10 public service hours per week to the schedules at Beaufort, Bluffton and Hilton Head Branch Libraries beginning March 1, 2014. Each of those branch libraries is now open 50 hours a week. Taking all the public service units into account, the Beaufort County Library system - including the Beaufort District Collection - is currently open to the public 265 hours a week with a staff of less than 50 librarians and library associates.
Although the Beaufort County Library is a system, for the purposes of argument, let's look at the standards for hours open in relation to the population served by regional branch libraries.
- Greater Beaufort has a 2010 population of 45,343 people. According to the standards, a population that size should have a branch library that is open 48 hours a week to provide basic services; the target is 54 hours a week. At present, the Beaufort Branch Library is open 50 hours a week. According to the standards, basic level staff, i.e., those performing direct service for the public, would be 22.7 Full-time equivalent people of which 7.6 would be MLS librarians. As of this writing, the current labor force at Beaufort Branch is 14 people of which 4 are MLS librarians. There are 3 positions open.
- Greater Bluffton has a 2010 population of 52,361 people. According to the standards, a population that size should have a branch library that is open 58 hours a week to provide basic services; the target is 62 hours a week. At present, the Bluffton Branch Library is open 50 hours a week. According to the standards, basic level staff, i.e., those performing direct service for the public, would be 26.2 people of which 8.7 would be MLS librarians. As of this writing, Bluffton Branch has a staff of 12 people of whom 5 are MLS librarians. There are 5 positions open at Bluffton Branch.
- Greater Hilton Head (including Daufuskie Island) has a 2010 population of 38,209 people. According to the standards, a population that size should have a branch library that is open 48 hours a week to provide basic services; the target is 54 hours a week. At present, the Hilton Head Branch Library is open 50 hours a week. According to the standards, basic level staff, i.e., those performing direct service for the public, would be 19 people of which 6.4 would be MLS librarians. Hilton Head Branch has a staff of 18 people of whom 5 are MLS librarians. As of this writing, Hilton Head Branch is fully staffed.
At the end of June 2014, the Library had the equivalent of 49.26 full-time employees, including the BDC, the Technical Services department, Administration, and IT. The regular branch libraries are open 230 hours a week. (The BDC is open to the public 35 hours a week with one degreed librarian and one associate and there are no SC state standards for special libraries within public libraries.) But life happens in a library just as it happens in any other for profit or non-profit or governmental entity. Since June 2014, the Library has lost staff due to retirements and/or personnel leaving for better positions elsewhere. We've experienced slow filling of open positions (for a number of reasons, many of which are outside the control of Library administration) and some staff are away on temporary medical leaves. When people leave employment, those remaining on the team pick up the slack as best they can.
For a number of months now, staff from Beaufort Branch, St. Helena Branch, and Technical Services have been helping out at Lobeco Branch. Staff from Hilton Head Branch have been helping fill gaps in staff at Bluffton Branch as well. Virtually everyone on the BCL team has been covering at least a portion of someone else's assigned duties for quite some time. This chronic staff shortage is now reaching into the Beaufort District Collection. The only staff "reserves" left are Charmaine and me. Thus, the BDC's Preservation Associate is being temporarily re-assigned to Lobeco Branch Library beginning November 1st. In one fell swoop, the BDC labor force will be cut in half.
In other words, the entire Library system is feeling the impact of the long-term situation when it comes to staffing which in the end really comes down to long-term issues securing sufficient funding for operations.
Here's what's going to happen in the Beaufort District Collection come Monday, November 3rd:
As always, visitors in the Research Room are our first priority.
1) I will do my best to keep the Beaufort District Collection's Research Room open our customary 35 hours a week, that is, Mondays through Fridays, 10 am - 5 pm.
Corollary: The BDC Research Room may have to close with little or no notice if I have to be out of the office for any reason.
2) BDC programs and outreach for 2014 end with the Zupan and Ballard presentation on Thursday, November 6th.
3) Maintaining and creating new segments for the "Virtual BDC" will slow down.
4) I will do my best to respond to telephoned and e-mail reference questions within 20 business days.
5) Processing of archival materials is suspended until Charmaine returns full-time to the BDC.
6) A planned digital project with the Lowcountry Digital Library about the "Hurricane of 1893" may be delayed if Charmaine's re-assignment extends into January 2015 or later.
As soon as it is possible, we will return to being that full service special local history collection and archive you know and we want to be.
I know that all these statistics are difficult to absorb. A document comparing Beaufort County Library to the Public Library Standards with tables and charts, created by Interim Director, Jan O'Rourke and presented at an open to the public Library Board of Trustees meeting, means I can share this public document with whomever asks for it. Just e-mail me if you'd like a copy. The Library has nothing to hide.