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Library board approves potential reduction of services to rural areas

The potential reduction of services to rural areas in Stutsman County could happen if the James River Valley Library System does not receive the $60,000 increase to its budget from the county.

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JAMESTOWN – The James River Valley Library System Board of Directors approved 5-2 a potential reduction in services to rural areas in Stutsman County if the library system doesn’t receive a $60,000 increase to its budget from the county.

Board member Gail Martin and Joan Morris, a county commissioner who is an appointed member to the library board, voted to oppose the request at the meeting on Wednesday, June 15.

The library system plans to request a $60,000 increase to its budget at the Stutsman County Commission meeting on Tuesday, June 21. The library board approved the library system’s budget for 2023 at its June 15 meeting.

The county commission reduced the library system’s budget by $60,000 in August 2021. The decrease in funding also affected how much the library system received in state aid, said Joe Rector, library system director. He said the library system would lose another $20,000 in 2023.

If the library system doesn’t receive the $60,000 increase to its budget, bookmobile routes to rural areas might need to be reduced, he said.

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“It needs to be supported by those (rural Stutsman County) taxpayers,” Rector said. “The bookmobile cannot be supported by city of Jamestown taxpayers paying $38,000 extra or whatever extra.”

Currently, the city of Jamestown provides 15 mills to the library system while Stutsman County provides 2.05 mills. For the library system’s 2023 proposed budget, it would receive $681,000 from the city and more than $227,000 if the county commission approves the $60,000 increase.

Rector said if Stutsman County Library is permanently closed it would affect bookmobile services. If Stutsman County Library is closed permanently, he predicted bookmobile services would cease within five years.

“Part of that (providing successful bookmobile services) is the people who make it successful, part of that is the online resources that make it successful, part of it is the book ordering that makes it successful, the other materials that make it successful,” he said, “because just defunding it down to just bookmobile, just run it and keep your two people running it … it is not thinking expansively enough about what information services actually cost.”

Martin said the county allocation of $167,000 to the library system should allow for some rural bookmobile routes.

Rector said rural residents make up about 27% of the overall population in Stutsman County.

“So right now, if they were paying about 25% of our budget they would be in that ballpark where they are maintaining,” he said. “This year they are down to 21% of our budget and next year it’s another $20,000 out and who knows some other cuts.”

Morris said 60% of the bookmobile routes are in the city of Jamestown while 40% of the routes are in rural areas. She said she checked the number of routes per month and each day that the bookmobile is committed to the city or county.

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“When you look at the volume of visits, the city of Jamestown has more visits than the county does,” she said.

Rector said the majority of the bookmobile’s time is spent in rural areas. He said some visits in Jamestown are only 15- to 30-minute stops.

“There is definitely at least 80% out in the county,” he said.

The library board also unanimously tabled a motion made by Morris that Stutsman County Library services to the general public be closed as of Dec. 31.

Board member Charlotte Freeberg asked Morris how she could make the motion when she hasn’t been out on the bookmobile or has only been at the Stutsman County Library once.

Morris said she is not cutting funds for bookmobile services. She said she is concerned about having staff to keep a library open when Alfred Dickey Public Library offers the same services 10 blocks away.

She said the bookmobile can be at the Stutsman County Library and get loaded there.

Masaki Ova joined The Jamestown Sun in August 2021 as a reporter. He grew up on a farm near Pingree, N.D. He majored in communications at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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