For the first time ever, the 57 directors of Georgia's county and regional library systems have come together on a plan to overhaul the state's antiquated 1940s' funding formula and 1970s' funding levels. The proposal, officially christened "Raise Up Georgia Libraries for the New Millennium," is currently being unveiled and discussed with key Georgia state lawmakers.
It is a grass-roots plan and deserves strong grass-roots support.
The old legislative funding formulas are a model of inefficiency. They are particularly unfair to larger library systems, like Augusta's, with growing populations. Even though the state provides only 20 percent of library funding -- compared to localities' 80 percent -- that 20 percent is important. It helps to pay for facilities' building and maintenance, staffing and book purchases.
"Raise Up," costing a scant $13 million, pulls the state's library systems together in a unified plan. It stretches available dollars and offers an extra $5,000 in state grants to library systems that engage in exceptional fund-raising efforts. In short, it creates incentives for regionwide cooperation and efficiencies.
The goal is to boost Georgia libraries from 36th in the nation to a much higher level in terms of delivering superior information and reading services for library-users all across the state.
Our Richmond and Columbia County lawmakers, in particular, should get behind this legislation. Richmond spends only $7.88 per capita on public libraries and Columbia only $4.88.
Here is an opportunity to help improve and modernize our regional library network, which currently is behind other Georgia counties of comparable size and populations. Furthermore, reworking the funding along the lines of the "Raise up" strategy will boost plans to relocate the current downtown Augusta library into a bigger and better downtown facility.
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