- Last Updated on 07:48 AM 09/12/12
- BY Doug Ford
Users of the South Boston Library are reading a little easier after South Boston Town Council voted Monday night to appropriate up to $14,000 in additional funding the remainder of the current fiscal year to restore Wednesday operating hours to the library.
The additional library appropriation would be transferred from the town’s overall contingency fund to the library line item in the current fiscal year budget, Town Manager Ted Daniel told council.
Council has contributed $62,000 to the library over the past three years, not including the money spent in maintenance on the building, purchase of supplies and utilities for the town-owned facility.
Recent budget cuts from other sources forced the library to close on Wednesdays, with Library Director Joe Zappacosta reducing hours for four employees.
One employee has since retired, while three others are currently working 20, 28 and 20 hours, according to the director.
Zappacosta told council Monday the additional funding would allow the reinstatement of full-time hours to one employee.
With the reinstatement of full-time hours, that employee would be able to resume supervision of a program at the library geared toward teenagers and allow that employee to help cover the front desk and assist the branch manager.
“We don’t have anything going on for teens right now. It’s a much needed program, and that was my idea, hire that person full-time,” said Zappacosta.
Although Wednesday is usually the slowest day of the week at the library, closing it that day has still disrupted the overall services the library provides.
“I think that everyone sees the benefit of South Boston reopening on Wednesday,” he noted. “No one can dispute the benefits, and I can’t see turning something like that down.”
Council also is seeking the re-establishment of a joint library consolidation committee to explore the costs of a centrally located library compared to the current two-library system, drawing an impassioned plea Monday night from South Boston attorney Bill Greer to keep “his library open.”
“I’m very concerned about losing our public library in South Boston,” Greer told council.
“I really love books, and the thing that’s bad about the move is it’s not bad for me – I have a car and can drive out there – but there are elderly people who don’t drive but can get to the library.
“It’s so important the library be available to children. If you put one out there (Centerville), you’d have to get a way to transport them out there.”
“I’ve lived in this town a long, long time, and I love this town as much as you do, maybe more, and I don’t want this town to dry up and blow away,” continued Greer. “It makes me sick with all the things that are going to Riverdale and Centerville. Before long, we won’t have anything downtown.
“This library here, I go in there all the time, and it’s just packed with people. The computers are very important to the public, and there’s not a time where I go in there where the computers are all not being used.
“Some of those people on those computers don’t have cars, and they gain all sorts of knowledge from them.
“I just think it’s a mistake. I don’t care what you save, if you tax me more, I’ll pay more to keep a library in South Boston.”
“I hope you consider it from the viewpoint of the general public,” Greer concluded. “The public in South Boston deserves to have that library in South Boston. It’s that simple.”
Councilman Coleman Speece said there might have been a misconception coming out of council’s retreat that council had already approved the additional funding for the South Boston Library.
“The impression in some of the press was that council approved funding of this. We did not approve it but discussed it,” he said of re-opening the library on Wednesdays.
In regards to library consolidation, Speece added, “As tax dollars get tough, our feeling was we might be able to provide a more complete library service.
“If we had to move it two miles, then that might serve everybody better. It’s going to get a lot of thought, and it’s not a foregone conclusion, something we’re going to discuss. The big thing is we’re going to have to come up with funding to provide that library.”
Greer’s remarks were “right on target,” according to Mayor Carroll Thackston.
“I know you’re passionate about it, and I know your wife was also,” said Thackston. “I saw both of you down there, and one of the things that’s happening with these computers is the Virginia Employment Commission has most of the jobs online, and you have to get on a computer and apply for them.”