Marathon library faces closure
By RICHARD MARK GLOVER
ALPINE, MARATHON – Library services are thriving in Alpine but down at the financially struggling Marathon branch, according to a presentation made Tuesday at the Brewster County Commissioners Court by the Alpine Public Library Board of Directors.
“Down 52 percent this year,” said Ken Durham, library board treasurer.
The presentation, titled, “A New Model for Serving Remote Citizens of Brewster County” showed the annual budget for the 6,000 volume Marathon Library is about $21,000 per year which excludes rent (provided free by the county) and payroll. The branch library has lost $14,000 per year for the last two years and already is $20,000 “in the hole” this year.
Part of the presentation included exploring new possibilities on how to maintain library services in Marathon, including a “Red Box” proposal.
“The best way to provide library services is to have a librarian,” said Durham. “But another way to provide information services is the Red Box. Fifty percent of the demand in Marathon is DVD. That and much popular fiction could be instantly available.”
Brewster County Commissioners voted unanimously at the meeting to reconfirm the legal relationship between the county and the Alpine Public Library and their duty to keep the library open in Marathon.
“People love places that are special,” said Judge Val Beard waving a stack of letters. “People in Marathon love their library as a place and not just a place for service.”
The county subsidizes the Alpine library at about $40,000 per year.
“They made a full-blown presentation but without any input from the community,” said Marci Roberts, citizen of Marathon.
“Some people criticized us for not bringing this presentation to the public first,” said Chris Ruggia, chairman of the APL board. “But the county is our partner and we chose to discuss it with them first.”
A public meeting to discuss the future of the Marathon branch is scheduled at the Marathon Library today at 6:30PM.
“There was a lot of emotional support for the Marathon branch at the Commissioner’s Court,” said Ruggia. “Now one of our challenges is to convert that energy and determine the practical support available to keep the library open. Not just volunteers, but the financial picture as well.”
APL bucks the trend in funding. A nationwide survey by the Non-Profit Management Center showed that public libraries are funded by government agencies at an average 94 percent of their total budget needs. APL currently receives a total of 44 percent from government agencies.
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