Starting June 1, people who live outside Clayton’s town limits will have to pay to use the library.
The Town Council voted unanimously recently to charge nonresidents a fee to obtain a library card. 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 opponents who have criticized the town’s plan say the fees will levy a tax on learning and create a divide between in- and out-of-town residents.
On Tuesday, members of the nonprofit Clayton Friends of the Library said that they, too, don’t like the change. However, the group declined to endorse a proposal that would have allowed out-of-towners to get a library card without paying the new fee.
Councilman Art Holder, a member of the Friends group, had suggested offsetting the fee for a library card by the amount someone donates to the nonprofit Friends. In essence, patrons outside the town limits could have obtained their card by giving $25 to the Friends instead of the town.
But that would have required library staff to check receipts from Friends donors to calculate how much someone owed. Friends member Bertha Crabtree said for bookkeeping purposes, it would be better to keep the group’s contributions separate from the town’s fees. The rest of the group agreed in a vote.
“It’s not a matter of being ugly,” Crabtree said. “It’s a matter of logistics.”
Holder told the Friends group that the town’s decision is not about limiting access to the library. It’s about being fair to taxpayers who help fund the library’s nearly $450,000 budget each year.
“We don’t want to cause anything that will reduce the income coming into the Friends,” Holder said.
The fees will go into effect on June 1, when Clayton launches a new cataloging system and issues new library cards.
The town will need the new cataloging system after ending its long relationship with the Public Library of Johnston County and Smithfield. The PLJCS, a nonprofit, has historically hosted a cataloging system for town-owned libraries in the county. That enabled library patrons in different towns to share books and other resources.
But Clayton is leaving the county network of libraries to gain more control over its operations. That includes being able to set up its own cataloging system, applying for grants and making sure its patrons get first dibs on books.
On the flip side, other Johnston County libraries that have historically shared Clayton’s books won’t be able to anymore. The county libraries and Clayton stopped sharing on April 1, and the libraries are preparing to return 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 both the Clayton library and one of the Johnston County libraries will have to have two cards.
Dunn: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104