The Town of Clayton’s plan to establish a freestanding library will become reality on July 1.
State Librarian Cal Shepherd has signed off on the town’s application to become a state-recognized library system; the move becomes official next month.
Approval allows Clayton’s Hocutt-Ellington Memorial Library to receive state funding each year, apply for grants and get access to databases and collections.
Clayton leaders announced last summer that the town was leaving the loose network of Johnston County libraries to form its own system. After submitting its application to the state last July, the town’s library had one year to prove it could adhere to state criteria for municipal libraries.
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That year-long review period ends July 1, and Clayton’s library will become the 81st public library in the state.
In addition to access to funding, grants and databases, Clayton leaders wanted to gain more control over their catalog.
While the town has historically funded and staffed its own library, Clayton used a cataloging system hosted by the Public Library of Johnston County and Smithfield.
The PLJCS, a nonprofit, was the only state-recognized library in the county. It functioned as the county’s “main branch” by hosting cataloging for not only Clayton but several libraries in Johnston. However, the PLJCS didn’t share the state funding it received with the smaller libraries.
In the past year, Clayton has bought its own cataloging system. The county libraries and Clayton stopped sharing on April 1, and the libraries started returning books to one another.
The library cards held by Johnston County network patrons will still work at the remaining affiliated libraries in Benson, Four Oaks, Kenly, Princeton, Selma and Smithfield. The PLJCS will reassign Clayton-area patrons to another affiliated library.
People who want to use the Clayton library will have to get a new card from the town. While library cards have been free historically, the Town Council agreed this spring to start charging nonresidents.
The annual charge for a card will be $25 per person or $50 for families of two or more people. Also, nonresidents will pay $5 an hour to use the library’s Internet.
Town leaders say it’s not fair for Clayton taxpayers to fund library services for nonresidents, who don’t pay town taxes. They say the fees create an even playing field. But critics of the town’s plan say the fees will levy a tax on learning and create a divide between in- and out-of-town residents.
Since Clayton started issuing new cards on June 1, the library has handed out more than 470. Of those, 102 cards, or 22 percent, went to paying patrons, said library director Christie Starnes.
About 17 people have paid for Internet cards, Starnes said.
Larry and Linda Strevig got their new library cards on Tuesday. While the Strevigs live in the town limits, Larry said he wasn’t a fan of the fees.
“One of the first things Benjamin Franklin did was make one of the first free libraries in the country,” Larry said, adding that one of his neighbors lives just outside of town and will have to pay the fee.
“If the library needs funding, do a fundraising drive.”
To get a new library card, patrons need to visit Hocutt-Ellington Memorial Library and talk with a librarian. For more information, go to www.claytonlibrarync.org.
Dunn: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104