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Despite the ups and downs of COVID-19, the annual report from Baxter County’s Donald W. Reynolds Library shows that the library continues to grow and thrive despite the once-in-a-generation challenges from the past few years.
The report, presented to the Baxter County Quorum Court during their April session, also revealed that the library has taken steps to adjust its pay-scale to keep pace with the changing economy.
“I just want to give you an idea of the percentage of our expenses that are directed to different things,” said Kim Crow Sheaner, director of the Donald W. Reynolds Library, during her presentation to the Baxter County Quorum Court. “Sixty-eight percent of our $1.2 million budget goes to our staff to pay and to benefits for Baxter County library staff. Twenty-two percent goes to our operating budget, 8% to materials, that would be any DVD, books, and audiobooks, all of the materials and subscriptions we provide on our website. And lastly, 2% goes towards programming.”
That budget has been stretched to its limits, with the library’s decision to give a $1 increase in pay to its employees to try and match the Quorum Courts’ $1 pay increase to county employees passed last year. Library staff also received a 3% increase in pay on their anniversary date with the library.
While the Baxter County Library has historically tried to match its pay scale with that of the county, it faced difficulty after the county passed an additional $2 pay increase for county employees during its February session. Crow Sheaner said the library’s budget couldn’t handle a $2 per hour increase in pay for its employees but was instead able to support additional $1 per hour pay raise.
“We made an appeal to the foundation’s board of trustees, and they were able to commit to a $1 per hour funding for us to be able to increase our staff pay by $1 per hour, in addition to the other increases,” Crow Sheaner said. “So we weren’t quite able to mirror, and historically we oftentimes are not able to mirror what the Quorum Court does for county employees. But we always try to do the best we can.”
The Donald W. Reynolds Library receives 58% of its yearly revenue from Baxter County property taxes, with another 27% of its funding coming directly from the library’s foundation. Other funding includes funds from COVID-19 grants, state aid, café rental, fines and fees, and other miscellaneous programs.
Baxter County residents currently pay a one-millage property tax for the Baxter County Library. That tax rate has not increased since the library was established in the 1950s.
“We’ve had the same one-mill property tax that we’ve had since the library was established in the 1950s, and while we did receive some COVID relief funding, it was all specified for certain things. So, we’ve not received any significant unrestricted funds to be able to use anything like that to support our staff for staff pay,” Crow Sheaner said.
Last year was a jam-packed year for the Baxter County Library. The library reports that it saw 180,729 visitors to the library throughout 2021, a 139% increase from the 75,562 visitors that it saw in 2020.
The library also reports it saw 180,729 items circulated through its doors in 2021—a 39% increase from the 137,722 circulated items in 2020. Program attendance also jumped by 26%, and there was a 110% increase in the issuance of new library cards from the year prior.
Volunteerism also returned to the library, which saw a 46% increase in volunteer hours from its volunteer staff members.
“Our volunteer numbers are rising back up,” Crow Sheaner said. “We have primarily an older population of folks that are able to volunteer, and of course, many of them did not feel comfortable during COVID coming into help out. We depend on volunteers to help us get items back on the shelves, to help us in the book return sorter rooms. They help us with storytimes and things like that. So, we saw our numbers of volunteers come back up to good numbers, and that’s a good feeling.”
The Baxter County Library hosts several events and programs throughout the year, including the Baxter County Early Literacy Project, Youth Services’ Outreach Story Times, On-Loan Art Exhibits, the Mom Walk and Talk program, and more.
For more information on the Donald W. Reynolds Library, please contact (870) 580-0987 or visit the library’s website here.