Library cooperative holds meeting

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 8, 2004

Members of a new Black Belt Area Libraries Cooperative met Thursday at the Ruby Pickens Tartt Public Library in Livingston.

Libraries from 15 counties including Greene, Hale, Marengo, Perry and Sumter are included in the group, which began in January 2003. However, only several libraries were represented at Thursday’s meeting. Lindsy Gardner of Demopolis, Thelma McCann of York and Margie Hutcheson of Livingston were among those in attendance.

It is difficult for many librarians to attend the cooperative meetings because there is just one person on their staff.

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The librarians heard from Alice Stephens, a consultant formerly with the Alabama Public Library Service who had made site visits to 27 libraries and conducted a feasibility study.

Among the services all the librarians felt they were strong in were computers and the Internet, adult fiction (particularly for senior citizens) and services for children.

One of the initial reasons the cooperative was created, Gardner said, was to possibly pull resources and hire a technology circuit rider to help with computer maintenance throughout the many libraries.

Last year specific libraries already began to share in the booking of performers for summer reading programs.

In addition, one library could apply for a grant, which would benefit all the facilities in the cooperative, she said. “We will have a grant writing committee and that committee will be responsible for finding the grant to match the projects that we are interested in,” Gardner said.

The Demopolis and Washington County libraries are the largest in the cooperative. Large is a relative word for libraries in this area, she said. “The whole reason we started this was to pool together what we have to help everybody.

“…A lot of the libraries only employ one part-time person, and then volunteers run the library the rest of the time. It may not be open many hours of the week.” Members of the cooperative have talked about “different kinds of programs that are easy for one person to do, not expensive and simple,” she said.

Patrons are the lifeblood of libraries. “The only way that we can continue to have a large patron base is if we continue to offer the services that patrons want. Right now technology is a huge part of that.

“…The way the younger generation perceives the library is different in what we can offer them,” Gardner said. “That is based around technology….We have to reexamine the way we serve our patrons.”

Members of the cooperative can share ideas. “The first year that I had this job I didn’t know any of the librarians around me except for the one in Linden. If you can’t get out to training (sessions because you’re limited with staff) then having the network of at least the people that are in proximity to you can just be invaluable.

The cooperative “is a great place to just talk about new ideas and encourage each other to be progressive,” she said.