During the work session prior to the regular session, Margaret Hillhouse, a member of the Cherokee County Library Board, addressed the commission, noting that Henry’s salary, as compared to other librarians in the area, is inadequate at best and that the librarian’s position involves much more than simply checking books and other materials in and out of the library.
“We have a pretty critical situation there now,” said Hillhouse. “But first I want to thank the commissioners, Judge Day and Tim Burgess for all the help he has given us.”
“There are many human interest stories about the importance of the library to this county,” said Hillhouse. “It goes back to the time when Mrs. Linnie Ellis started the library downstairs in the basement of the courthouse and then Mrs. Ethel Morrison donated the land to build the present library. It was built in 1874. Since that time, the library has overseen two building programs. We have raised the funds privately. So we now have a beautiful facility that any county would be proud of. And I have been to quite a few of the libraries around.”
“The thing I am trying to get across, we can no longer view the librarian as a clerk who checks books in and out,” said Hillhouse. “It is a very technical place now. I think most of you realize that and we are committed to serving the needs of a diverse clientele.”
“Directing a library requires a degreed professional much like educators, lawyers, engineers, nurses,” said Hillhouse. “The library aides in the county in lowering the unemployment rate. Almost a fifth of the Cherokee County population lives under poverty level. And most rely solely on the library computers.”
“We think, ‘well everybody can get a computer that wants it,’ but that is not true,” said Hillhouse. “So we have a computer lab now with 18 computers. People come there to complete all kinds of tasks because they are trying to survive in this computer age. We have children’s computer access for school projects, education and so forth. Seniors are 18 percent of this county’s population. And they utilize the computer access to file important documents.”
“We offered computer classes directed at this age group and all other,” said Hillhouse. “I wanted to tell you about a little incident that happened to make you realize just how much people use those computers. We had a lady who came in and said ‘I need to use the computer.’ Our computers were down, we were having technical problems. The librarian said ‘I am sorry, they are down.’ She broke out crying and the librarian said ‘Oh my goodness what’s wrong?’. She said ‘I am trying to apply for a job and they will only take applications on the Internet. And she said I have spent the last money I have to get here for gas.’”
The genealogy reference department of the library attracts people from many states,” said Hillhouse. “We have had them from all over here doing genealogy. We had a request from a lady in Sweden not long ago. So that generates money too when people come in here.”
“The Mormons who have the most comprehensive genealogy collection anywhere came and spent a month in our library copying genealogy records,” said Hillhouse.
“I don’t want to bore you with a lot of statistics, but just a few important ones,” said Hillhouse. “In fiscal year 2012, the number of library visits was 38,436. We circulated 86,799 individual materials including books and audio books. Library employees answered 6,364 reference questions, 4,072 patrons attended the 18 programs we offer at the library. So the skills set of the person we needed to acquire as director needs to address the county’s population, their age requirement and their specific needs. We had a class come from the middle school two weeks ago on Saturday morning. They needed lots of help finding the help they needed. Our present director was excited about helping them.”
The library director, Hillhouse said, must have extensive knowledge of securing grants, which includes discovery, applying, and implementation of state and federal monies available. “This is paramount to staying abreast of modern technology,” said Hillhouse.
“Our present director has a proven record in grant acquisitions,” said Hillhouse. “Securing two state grants, qualifying for three scholarships with a 4.0 GPA while completing her masters in library and information science. Mrs. Henry is the first director we have ever had in this county who has an MLS. There is a wage disparity that I believe has been an oversight. The previous director’s salary was $30,400. The present director’s salary is $20,423. That is nearly $10,000 a year less. She does have a master of library science.”
“We have compared libraries that serve the same population we have,” said Hillhouse. “We are currently paying our director that of an entry level library aide. We have a golden opportunity to keep the most qualified, knowledgeable, experienced director we have ever had. We have never even had any applicants that had this kind of experience, knowledge and education so I am asking you to try to correct this oversight for the good of Cherokee County.”
“We haven’t filled our assistant director’s position yet, so all we have down there is the director and two part time employees,” said Henry. “So if she goes, we won’t have a director, won’t have anybody to train someone that comes in there. All I would know to do is close the library until someone comes in there.”
“Thank you for your continued support and I thank you for your attention,” said Hillhouse.
On a related matter, the commission, during its regular session, approved the reappointments of Doris Pearson, Margaret Hillhouse and Johnny Usry to fill terms on the Cherokee County Library Board ending Feb. 1, 2016 and Andrea Givens for the term ending Feb. 1, 2017.