As the Guadalupe County commissioners work to finalize next year’s county budget, I urge them to fully fund the requests from the three public libraries in the county — Seguin, Marion and Schertz.
While Guadalupe County is not legally required to contribute to the support of public libraries, the county has operated for the last 20 years under an interlocal agreement with the city of Seguin that calls for the commissioners court to compensate the Seguin Public Library for providing free public library services to county residents who live outside the Seguin city limits. The county has a smilier arrangement with the libraries in Marion and Schertz that grants funds based upon the usage of county residents outside of city limits.
For example, approximately 18% of the total cardholders of the Seguin library (20,511) are issued to county residents outside the city limits (3,720). Of the total items checked out of the library between Oct. 1, 2018, and June 17, 2019 (158,354), almost 18% were by county residents outside the city limits (28,259). For the 2019 fiscal year, commissioners court contributed $173,742 to the Seguin library, which amounted to about 14.66% of the library’s total budget of $1,185,203. Commissioners court has not increased its contribution to the library since 2017.
This long-established arrangement between the county and the libraries to provide thousands of county residents access to free library services seems to be equitable.
At a June 28 budget workshop, commissioners court discussed the possibility of reducing funding to the libraries or even phasing out the library contributions entirely. If county funding is reduced significantly or eliminated, I’m sure the cities would have no alternative but to begin charging county residents a fee to obtain a library card. This would, no doubt, deprive many county residents of access to the full use of a public library.
Public libraries play an important role in strengthening our communities that extends far beyond just checking out books.
Library events help people connect to the health system, housing, literacy and employment. Libraries are welcoming and trusted places that provide valuable programs on healthcare, mental and physical health and nutrition. Libraries have programming for all ages — toddlers to seniors.
Libraries supply meeting rooms (which are high in demand) for use by a myriad of community groups and activities. Libraries are places where individuals can emerge from their social media cocoons and meet face to face with others to exchange ideas, have a good time and build relationships.
I realize the commissioners court has many pressing financial issues. The provision of good roads, great law enforcement, efficient courts and adequate fire protection is essential to the continued growth and economic health of the county. However, quality of life amenities cannot be short-changed either. Vibrant libraries are a key ingredient in attracting people to live and work in Guadalupe County.
Michael Barrow, Seguin