After agreeing to a contract for library services for non-Weatherford residents over the next year, the Weatherford City Council Tuesday took steps to form a task force to seek more funding from the county for library services county-wide.
The interlocal agreement was tabled by the council on Oct. 10 after council member Heidi Wilder and others balked at signing a contract that left the library without a funding increase despite requests from the city.
Under the terms of the contract, Parker County will pay the county $45,100 and Weatherford will treat county residents who live outside Weatherford city limits as they do city residents.
County residents outside Weatherford make up about 55 percent of library users though the county provides 4.2 percent of the library funding, according to Weatherford.
Parker County’s funding has ranged between $44,000 and $46,000 over the past 20 years while the library’s budget has grown from $517,000 to nearly $1.1 million.
“I’m going to make a motion that we accept this with the understanding that we need to have further discussion during the budget session with the county with regard to the library,” council member Heidi Wilder said Tuesday.
After council member Jeff Robinson asked whether she’d like to add a statement that the city would be unwilling to agree to $45,000 in funding in the future, Wilder, council member Dale Fleeger and Mayor Craig Swancy agreed.
“I think we all feel the same,” Swancy said.
“One of the things we discussed at our last work session was the need to work with the citizens, not just inside our city but also in the county, and with all the other libraries in the county,” City Manager Sharon Hayes said. “There are many needs in this community and throughout the county and I know that it’s a goal of this council as well as ours to make sure those needs are met. We don’t want to lose any ground with where we are with the library association and so our recommendation would be to put together the task force that we discussed ... last week in our work session.”
Fleeger and Wilder were nominated to serve.
Library Director Chris Accardo said that two city council liaisons who would bring together a task force of citizens and representatives of other interested organizations such as city councils and Friends of the Weatherford Public Library.
The task force would be responsible for going to the county and presenting justification for and requesting additional funding.
“I wanted to make it clear that part of the charge of this task force ... would be to get increased funding from the county for library services all across the county, not just Weatherford,” Accardo said, adding that he wants the task force to not only seeking increased ongoing operational funding but look at funding for capital projects such as the renovation and expansion of the Weatherford Public Library and for projects that the Springtown and East Parker County libraries are considering.
“Just based on the discussions we’ve already had at the previous work session, council meeting and the articles that have come out in the Democrat, I’ve had a number of interested people, even a whole organization that has said that they want to come out and be part of that task force so I’ll get you some contact information on that,” Accardo told council members following the appointment.
Courtney Butler, a member of the city’s library board (not the task force) representing county residents and a certified librarian in Fort Worth, later in the week told the Weatherford Democrat that she wants to see the library get more funding from the county.
“As a county resident a lot of people don’t realize people in the county don’t have the internet resources and the things like that that people have within city limits often,” Butler said. “A lot of people need these things for employment, to get jobs, to finish grad school.”
“I spent many a day in the parking lot even when the library was closed on my laptop using their wifi to finish grad school,” Butler said. “So you can’t even measure how valuable it is to people because libraries are supposed to be free of all labels. It’s the one place that is for everybody. It doesn’t matter your economic status, your religion, your race. It’s for everybody.”
“I really think that if the county provided more money we could provide more services to people that obviously want it,” Butler said. “That’s why we have such a high volume of patrons that go there.
“We also need to have a better space because right now they are so over capacity,” Butler said. “For materials. The children don’t have their own separate area. And it is a distraction for people who are in there doing their homework and doing applications for jobs and the different studies people do when they are at the library.”
“So our children, and I mean all children, really deserve a better space in the library for them to fall in love with reading as well and the act of learning,” Butler said.
Butler said she would like the county to put in more money and perhaps have more say in library oversight, noting that her current seat is a non-voting position.