Money woes for local libraries

County Mayor A C Wharton plans to propose deep cuts when he presents his budget to county commissioners next week. One of them will mean a million dollar loss to the Memphis and Shelby County Library System. This is just the beginning of money woes for local libraries.

The 60 million dollar Central Library opened in November of 2001. Now it is one of 22 local libraries that could lose millions of dollars in contributions from the county. James Huntzicker, County Finance Officer said, "We provide the Shelby County and Memphis Library systems with a little over 5 million dollars a year." But county finance officer James Huntzicker says the county wants to get out of the library business altogether. "We're going to recommend that we reduce funding a million dollars this year." And over the next 4 years, gradually pull all library funding and leave each municipality to fund their own.

"Hmm, that's the first I've heard of it." The news came as a shock to library spokesman Bobby King. "That's not cool at all." And to Teri Weaver who relies on the Central Library to home-school her daughter. Weaver said, "I drive from Raleigh to come to this library for the materials that they maintain here and without that funding they're not going to be able to do it."

Mayor A C Wharton said, "It's such a beacon that I hate to do anything that would appear to undermine its financial support, but again it's just one of those difficult choices that we're having to make." But Wharton says for now, the county can only afford to spend money on services that are required by law, and the library system isn't one of them.

Mayor Wharton says the library cut is particularly difficult for him because he was on the steering committee that pushed for the construction of the Central Library.