By: Robin Ford Wallace, Reporter
A Monday night telethon and auction on local television station KWN brought the Dade County Library $7000 closer to its goal of raising enough through charity to keep its doors open 30 hours a week for the rest of this fiscal year.
Linda Wilson, a member of the local and regional library governing boards, as well as president of the library’s nonprofit Friends group, said the official number of $14,210 collected, which is listed at the library’s fundraising website, www.savedadelibrary.org, does not include money pledged but not paid, or owed but not collected from the auction. “We didn’t want to have to reduce it if everybody doesn’t pay up,” she said.
Monday night’s take from the “Around Town with Monda and Charlie” television show was $4000 in cash, $2000 more pledged, and $1000 still to be collected from the auction, said Ms. Wilson. So if all pledgers are as good as their word, that should bring the total collected so far to $17,210, quite close to the $19,000 that Cherokee Regional Library Director Lecia Eubanks says will permit the Dade branch to keep its doors open for the 30-hour week the other Cherokee branches do.
The $19,000 figure represents about half of the $37,726 that historically has been the share of the library’s local support furnished by the Dade County Board of Education. In late June, at the recommendation of new schools superintendent Shawn Tobin, the school board announced without warning it would pull all funding for the library from its 2013 budget. The school board voted last week to finalize that decision despite impassioned pleas from throngs of library supporters to furnish at least half until the library could find another funding source.
Besides depriving an already chronically underfunded library branch of one quarter of its expected annual income, the school board’s abrupt move imperils matching funds from the state, not just for Dade but for the three Walker County libraries in the system. Ms. Eubanks has said Cherokee Regional will shut the Dade branch down before it allows the school board’s decision to deprive the other three of state support.
For this year, though, the $19,000 goal, if met, should allow the library to maintain the four days of service weekly it dropped down to on July 1 after the first of its disasters this summer – health insurance hikes mandated by the state that forced Cherokee Regional to slash employees’ hours or lay them off entirely.
Good news has, in fact, been thin on the ground for the library recently, but Ms. Wilson said things don’t seem quite as dire now as they did last week, at least not for the immediate future. “Last night was very encouraging,” she said.
Ms. Wilson said on top of the $5000 donated by Southeast Lineman Training Center, the library received $1000 from Covenant College and another $1000 from local business Madex.
And this being an election year didn’t hurt either, she said. Johnny Gray, incumbent county coroner up for reelection, chipped in $100 and challenged other candidates to join him. Tom McMahan, who is running for the Georgia House of Representatives, kicked in $1000 of his own, said Ms. Wilson.
Ms. Wilson said sheriff candidates Nathan Baker and Philip Street had also contributed, but she did not specify in what amount.
She said that local businesses had been generous in donating auction items – a recliner from Gross Furniture had been an especially attractive bid magnet. Artist Larry Dodson contributed several prints to the auction, said Ms. Wilson, and a cake shaped like a guitar, homemade by a Friends member, fetched the library $50.
Ms. Wilson stressed – and she said TV hosts Charlie Browning and Monda Wooten had also stressed – that fundraisers are not a permanent solution to the library’s abiding financial needs. It is unclear, for one matter, how the collection by fundraising of just half the expected school board contribution will be used in the state formula for “maintenance of effort,” the required level of local support.
“Anyway, I don’t want to be in a constant turmoil of fundraisers,” said Ms. Wilson. “People just get tired of them.”
On the other hand, she said, contributions right now are the library’s only hope, and keenly needed. Readers may make donations to the library in person, send checks to P.O. Box 340, Trenton, Ga. 30752, or contribute online at www.savedadelibrary.org.
Friends of the Dade County Library will hold an emergency meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday to discuss their next move, said Ms. Wilson.
Meanwhile, the library as scheduled on Saturday closed its temporary location across from Gross Furniture, beside the Jo Mama’s Wraps sandwich shop, for good. The library will remain closed for two weeks while it moves into its newly renovated and expanded permanent building on the Trenton town square. A grand opening is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Aug. 14.
The library has been out of its permanent home for almost two years – it moved into its first temporary location in the Ingle’s shopping center in October 2010. The renovation project, funded through a patchwork of sources before the library’s fortunes nosedived, was delayed when the original contractor was fired for underperformance and again as library administration wrestled with the bonding insurer for the work.
Meanwhile, the Ingle’s location lost part of its roof to the tornados of April 27, 2011, necessitating the move to the 1000-foot storefront across from Gross Furniture.
A press release issued last week by the library specified that books, DVDs and other items owned by the Dade County Library are not due during the library’s move; borrowers may return them after the grand opening.
Items owned by other libraries and borrowed through the Dade branch are due as scheduled, and they may be returned to the drop box at 102 Court Street or at the branch libraries in Rossville, Chickamauga and LaFayette.
One bright sight in all this is that Jo Mama’s has announced plans to expand into the storefront left vacant next door as the library leaves its temporary location, and in the expansion transform itself into an ice cream as well as sandwich shop.
Jo Mama’s celebrates its first anniversary today, with free T-shirts to the first few comers.