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Public libraries to be allotted $95,000 more next year to buy new books


Carroll County public libraries probably will have more money to spend on new books next year, but it won't be enough to make up for budget cuts in the past four years, officials said.

The Carroll County Library's board of trustees voted unanimously at its meeting Wednesday to boost the budget for new books by $95,000 in fiscal 1995, which begins July 1. That would be a 21 percent increase.

The library is spending $457,675 on new books in the current fiscal year; the board proposes to spend $552,675 next year.

Book buying has suffered since library budgets were cut, starting in fiscal 1991, because of the recession and state funding cuts.

The board would have to raise its spending by $267,000 next year to bring the system back to where it was before the cuts began, said library accountant Sharon Wehnert. That figure is based on an annual inflation rate of 5 percent, she said.

The book budget in fiscal 1991 was about $600,000, Ms. Wehnert said.

Overall, next year's proposed operating budget for the library system is up $200,000, to $4.8 million from $4.6 million.

The county commissioners will review the budget next spring and decide whether to give it final approval.

The county expects "modest" improvement in revenues in fiscal 1995, the commissioners told all county agency and department heads last month. The commissioners asked supervisors not to increase their budgets more than 5 percent to 6 percent.

Overall spending in the county budget for the current fiscal year was 8.9 percent higher than in the previous year. The Carroll operating budget this year is $130 million.

In the budget approved Wednesday, the library board figured on an increase in revenue from the county from $3.9 million this year to $4.1 million next year.

State funding will decrease by 1.6 percent, from $417,126 this year to $410,669 next year.

The proposed budget includes:

* A computerized phone system to notify patrons who have overdue books. The system would save the library about $5,600 a year, about 36 percent of its mailing costs, Ms. Wehnert said.

The library still would have to send out about half as many notices as it does now because of people who do not respond to the phone messages, she said.

Employees send out an average of 150 overdue notices each day at a cost of 29 cents each.

Postage costs are budgeted at $16,000 this year and $10,220 next year.

Phone calls on the computerized system would cost 10 cents each. Total phone expenses are projected to increase about 6 percent, from $66,000 this year to $69,900 next year.

The proposed budget includes $7,000 to rent a phone notification system for about 18 months to test it in Carroll and determine whether patrons like it.

Board member Gene Gartrell of Mount Airy asked whether the system could be programmed not to call people between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. Scott Reinhart, assistant director for library technical and support services, said it could.

Board member Robert Sapora liked the phone system idea.

"We're saving trees. We're saving postage. The public probably could get to admire that," Mr. Sapora said.

* A marketing survey to help library employees plan how to best fulfill patrons' needs.

A survey would tell employees whether residents want books by mail, electronic mail orders for materials, information by fax machine or access to magazine articles by computer, among other services, said Linda Mielke, the library director.

The survey would cost $6,275.

* One new employee, a computer technician to help repair equipment at an annual salary of $25,019.

* A $23,365 increase in retirement costs for employees.

Beginning this year, the state no longer pays retirement costs for library employees, so the library must pay, Ms. Wehnert said.

The library paid $11,515 this year and has budgeted $34,880 for next year.

The board also discussed having patrons use debit cards instead of library cards. Baltimore County libraries recently started using the cards, which officials there call "wild cards."

A patron pays to keep a balance on the card. Any purchases at the library, fines or rental or copier fees then are deducted from the balance, Carroll Associate Director Gail Griffith said.

Carroll officials want to study the possible use of such a system; no money is budgeted for it.

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