Clayton library trustees say they want to continue sharing with their Johnston neighbors after leaving the county’s library network.
Directors of smaller Johnston libraries have voiced concern about Clayton’s plans to break away from the network, which allows the libraries to shares books and materials. They fear that once Clayton leaves, their patrons will not have access to the town’s growing collection.
During a meeting of Clayton’s Hocutt-Ellington Memorial Library Board of Trustees on June 26, chairwoman Belle Allen said sharing is something that’s on everyone’s mind.
“We hope to keep some type of affiliation with the county,” said Allen, whose comments were echoed by several other board members.
But it’s unclear how a future sharing agreement would work. Since the early 1990s, Johnston County libraries have shared books through a joint cataloging system hosted by the Public Library of Johnston County and Smithfield.
Once Clayton leaves the existing network, it will likely use a different cataloging system, which could make loans between libraries harder. But it won’t be impossible, said Clayton Town Councilman Art Holder.
“There are options from what I understand,” he said. “We have to explore what those options are and explore which one we want to take.”
One option could be N.C. Cardinal, the state’s consortium of 19 public libraries that share resources. With its own library system, Clayton would be eligible for N.C. Cardinal, and state library officials say the Smithfield library is also interested in the system.
Clayton hopes to have a state-recognized library by July 1, 2015. The town has notified the state of its intentions but must prove for one year that it meets eligibility requirements to function on its own. Those requirements include operating the library for at least 40 hours a week and having a full-time director, which Clayton does.
After a successful demonstration year, Hocutt-Ellington would be eligible for state library funding and services, such as online databases like NC LIVE.
In the short term, Clayton will continue sharing with Johnston libraries. The library board renewed its five-year contract with the six other libraries, which will allow the town to keep using the joint cataloging system while it prepares to leave the network. Clayton can opt out of the contract with six months’ notice, said Christie Starnes, director of Hocutt-Ellington Memorial Library.
Jeff Jennings, vice chairman of the Smithfield library’s board of trustees, said nothing will change in terms of service to Clayton.
“I can tell you that for now, the Smithfield library plans to continue on, business as usual,” Jennings said in an email.
In Johnston, the only library eligible for state funding is Smithfield’s, which receives about $200,000 a year. Jennings said that money buys services and materials not only for the Smithfield library but branch libraries as well.
Jennings said the following is a list of things the Smithfield library pays for with state funds:
• The cataloging and processing of books, audio books and DVDs.
• The supplying of library cards throughout the county network.
• The purchasing of books, audio books and DVDs that will be used by all libraries in the system.
• The maintenance of the integrated library system and associated costs, such as annual maintenance fees, the appearance of book jackets, book reviews and summaries in the library catalog.
State library officials say Clayton currently qualifies to form its own municipal system. However, Deputy Town Manager Nancy Medlin said the library will have to develop a long-range plan before it can win official state recognition.
Medlin said the long-range plan will likely include whether or not – or how – Clayton’s library will share with other Johnston libraries.
Clayton leaders say the move away from the Johnston library network will give priority to the town’s growing population. Starnes, Clayton’s library director, has also called the current sharing system cumbersome.
The town has budgeted an additional $66,000 for Hocutt-Ellington this fiscal year, including $18,400 for a cataloging system, $6,000 on extra books, $5,000 for e-books and $37,000 for two part-time librarians.
“Our No. 1 goal is to give the public books to read,” Allen said. “That’s always been our goal, to provide this educational opportunity to the people of Clayton.”
Dunn: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104