The Jackson-Hinds Library System will have to reduce its spending because of budget cuts for the 2020-2021 fiscal year.
The good news, if there is such when it comes to budget reductions, is the reduction in funding is less than what was expected.
A budget cut of $200,000 was anticipated but the number is “closer to $120,000,” said Kimberly Corbett, interim executive director of the system.
“It’s going to make things tighter,” she said. “We’ll have to make cuts everywhere.”
The amount spent on maintenance of library branches will be trimmed, subscriptions to periodicals cut and contracts renegotiated, she said. Staff will need to handle additional maintenance issues, she said.
All employees of the library system still have their jobs, with some employees lost due to attrition, she said.
Hinds County Supervisor Robert Graham, who represents District 1, said the supervisors voted to reduce the library system’s funding based on the recommendation of Jennifer Riley Collins, former county administrator.
Tracy Carr, library services director at the Mississippi Library Commission, said libraries often face hard times.
“Declining (tax) revenue due to COVID-19 isn’t going to help things,” she said. “That is going to be the big thing.”
The pandemic makes it challenging to serve the public while keeping patrons safe and the library staff safe, she said, and it has meant additional expenditures for cleaning supplies are necessary.
Libraries offer free use of a computer and internet service, and many people still need that even in a pandemic, Carr said. “I can’t think of another place where it’s free to use a computer,” she said.
In June, officials with the Jackson-Hinds system said they were bracing for major budget cuts because of possible lower tax collection in Jackson and Hinds County.
At the same time, the system was dealing with new expenses related to reopening after the coronavirus outbreak.
Among the expenses, the system has had to spend thousands of dollars to purchase masks, hand sanitizer and gloves to protect patrons and staffers. The system also has had to hire additional security guards to ensure patrons follow federal, state and city health guidelines when using the library.
The system is funded by ad valorem taxes collected in Hinds County and the city of Jackson. Jackson-Hinds also receives an annual allocation from the Mississippi Library Commission and the Legislature to help pay salaries and provide life insurance benefits.
The system includes 14 branches, seven in Jackson and one each in Clinton, Byram, Terry, Raymond, Utica, Edwards and Bolton.
Hours vary from branch to branch, with each one continuing to offer curbside service. Patrons can call and schedule a time if they want to select their own books, Corbett said.
“Libraries are such high touch environments,” she said. “We’re trying to walk a fine line about being as open as possible but being safe. We’re trying to be careful.”