Tuesday, May 25, 2010

25 MAY 10: Mingle or Die

"You can help us celebrate something," the library director suggested during a Monday phone call. I certainly have nothing against that. After all, the staff never did roll out a big cake to mark the main library's fifth anniversary in January - and I prefer chocolate fudge.

But that's not the reason why I called Claudya Muller Monday afternoon. I needed the Chattahoochee Valley Library Director's help, to sort out questions an e-mail brought up Monday. Is Muscogee County property tax money going to library branches in other counties? And if it develops bright young readers who go to college at Columbus State, isn't it a wash anyway?

Claudya Muller admitted she had a "fuzzy answer" for the questions about property tax money and libraries. It involves materials that are "co-mingled" among several branches in the Chattahoochee Valley Library system. First they order all those Harry Potter books, and then the slippery-slope begins....

The multi-county library system has exchanged materials for years. Someone in Marion County can request to check out a book or DVD that's kept at a branch in Columbus. Perhaps some Columbus residents want the libraries to add a charge for "shipping and handling."

Claudya Muller told me the Chattahoochee Valley Libraries have saved tens of thousands of dollars in recent years, by sending requested materials one-way. A Columbus book checked out by someone in Richland is NOT automatically returned to Columbus - but stays in Richland until someone in Columbus requests it back. It might be a redneck book if....

Claudya Muller went on to explain how costs are shared for library branches outside Columbus. Outlying counties pay for the building and utility costs, while the library system pays for the material and staff. So if a branch is cold next winter, please don't start burning books -- that will only confuse the budgeting.

"There's not a clean, black-and-white answer" for how much Muscogee County property tax money is used in outlying library branches, Claudya Muller admitted. For instance, the state of Georgia provides funding for the branches. The library system has an endowment. And someone might find a Georgia version of that book scofflaw George Washington never returned, to make big money.

(By the way - should that 221-year overdue book put an end to the stories about George Washington's honesty? The first President may have learned to keep his mouth shut, after chopping down that cherry tree.)

Claudya Muller confirmed my suspicions that library branches in Richland, Marion County and Chattahoochee County could NOT operate without Columbus funding. But Georgia state law says they cannot become independent of the Chattahoochee Valley system unless they can raise $100,000 in support. How many bake sales can we expect people in Cusseta to have?

So that sheds a little light on the complicated funding of.... oh wait, I almost forgot. Claudya Muller wanted me to help celebrate a successful start of the library system's summer "Teen Vacation Reading Program." It's designed to get teenagers reading books - as opposed to secretly-purchased copies of "Maxim" and "Cosmopolitan."

Claudya Muller says more than 100 teenagers in the Chattahoochee Valley system signed up for the summer reading program in the first week. The total last summer was 300, so she considers that a good start. Once teens learn they can win an iPad, their parents might put on extra pressure for them to enroll.

Educators have emphasized for decades the importance of children reading during summer vacation. Claudya Muller says that's true in the teenage years as well. For instance, high school football players need to understand the fine print of those college letters of intent.

Our big library "get" means calls about another e-mail topic will be delayed until another day. Here's what else had our attention Monday -- beginning with a story seemingly all the local media missed....

+ Preliminary FBI statistics indicated violent crime in Columbus dropped 9.5 percent last year. But property crime was up one percent from 2008, and burglaries were up 15.9 percent. How many of those crime prevention grants are going to Neighborhood Watch groups?

+ Russell County Sheriff candidate Heath Taylor told WTVM he's "not running against" Jeff Gibson next Tuesday - he's running FOR the office. If Taylor actually was running against Gibson, we probably would have seen a TV commercial with a shotgun by now.

+ Municipal Court Judge Stephen Hyles was appointed federal Magistrate Judge, to replace the retiring Mallon Faircloth. This opens the way for the grand return of former Judge Haywood Turner - as long as police don't stop him for speeding on Second Avenue, while he races to the Government Center.

+ Columbus Technical College launched a new cosmetology department. Maybe this is a stupid question - but why? Doesn't Columbus already have Rivertown School of Beauty? And Southeastern School of Beauty? Not to mention all the barber shops along Victory Drive, offering little more than buzz cuts.

+ Georgia Search and Rescue began a series of disaster drills at Auburn University's Jordan-Hare Stadium. Isn't this amazing? They're already preparing to remove Bulldog fans from the football game in November....

+ Columbus and Thomson split a doubleheader in the AAA high school baseball semifinals, forcing a decisive third game today. Did you see the Columbus center fielder crash into the metal outfield wall, leaving it bent with the outline of his body? If his team wins the state title, they might as well leave the mark there and paint "2010" into it.

+ Instant Message to the e-mailer who recommended Big Lots in Phenix City [13 May]: Wow - you were right! I found one loaf of whole wheat bread Monday night for a dollar. Several others were $1.20. It makes you wonder why Family Dollar even bothered to open a store at the other end of the strip mall.

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