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Ripley library officials host info meeting on District Library vote

April 28, 2016
By David Prenatt ( , Westfield Republican

RIPLEY - On May 17, the future of Ripley's public library will be in the hands of voters from the school district.

After much deliberation and research, the Ripley Free Library board decided to become a District Library. This means that its funding will come from taxes paid by residents within the geographical school district area. The matter now goes to voters for approval.

Library Director Rhonda Thompson noted that, while the school district will collect the tax, the relationship with the school district ends there. ""We are completely independent of Ripley School District," she said. "They don't run us and we don't run them."

Article Photos

Photo by David Prenatt
Ripley Library board president Janet Skinner, left and library director Rhonda Thompson conduct a public information session about becoming a District Library.

Thompson and library board President Janet Skinner hosted one of several public informational meetings regarding the change on April 21 at the library. Thompson said that the change will allow the library not only to keep its current programming and operation, but to expand its services to the community.

The public library in the United States, which dates back to the early 1700's, was a repository for books, papers, and records. The public library of 2016 not only provides its patrons with books, periodicals, and papers, but also with printing and copying services, DVDs and books on tape, the use of up-to-date technology, and a variety of educational programs.

By the late 20th century, public libraries across the US faced budget shortfalls, due to funding cuts. Thompson explained that the Ripley library operates on budget of $28,600 from the town, $3,000 from the school, and fundraising efforts.

Materials, programs, technology upgrades, and utilities must be paid with a very limited budget, according to Skinner and Thompson. The trustees and staff are faced with offering limited hours, making cuts to material purchases, curtailing programs, including the children's summer reading program, eliminating technology upgrades and maintenance, and cutting the staff, which consists of three part-time employees.

"We always operate on a deficit," Thomson said. "By becoming a district library, we wo0ld not have to do that and we would become much more stable."

Becoming a district library would give the library a budget of $85,000, raised by a tax of $1.04 per $1000 assessed property value. However, noted Skinner, "We will lose town funding, so taxpayers will realize a decrease of $0.21 per thousand in the town tax. Therefore, the net effect will be an increase of $0.83 per thousand."

"The library will share the school district's boundaries, the library will live within its own tax cap, and the school district will collect the library's funding and turn it over to us," Thompson said.

Thompson indicated that in 2015, over 13,600 people visited Ripley Free Library and the computers were used 3,743 times. She noted that of the seven computers library patrons were accustomed to, only two are still in service.

Thompson said that the value of all library programs in 2015 has been estimated at $217,718. "These numbers show that Ripley needs the library, and we'd like to be able to give them [the patrons] more," she said.

Skinner noted that when a Library becomes a District, trustees are elected by school district voters. The district will be established by a vote of the school's district's residents and voters will elect seven library trustees.

The Board President and Library Director said that if approved, they hope to increase library hours of operation, increase internet bandwidth, give patrons a better wireless experience, increase the budget for new materials, purchase new technology, and offer enhanced printing and copying services.

Thompson noted that "One of the big blocks we have faced is that Ripley is fund-raised out. The Bicentennial Committee, the churches, and other groups all hold fund-raisers."

"The library itself will not be able to do fundraising if we become a Library district," said Skinner. "Friends of the Library can hold fund-raisers, but not the board," she added.

Thompson and Skinner said the vote is scheduled for Tuesday, May 17 from 2 to 8 pm at the school. They said the District proposal and the trustee elections will be separate items on the ballot.



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