When Clayton launches its own library system next year, the town will likely be eligible for a state grant of $8,000 to $12,000.
That amount is significantly less than the nearly $190,000 the state awards to the Public Library of Johnston County and Smithfield, the only Johnston library that receives direct funding from the State Library of North Carolina.
With 14,000 and 17,700 patrons, respectively, the Clayton and Smithfield libraries serve a similar clientele. But the state says the Smithfield library gets more money because it acts as the central branch for the county’s network of seven libraries.
While most libraries in North Carolina function as part of a county system, Johnston County’s libraries are somewhat different. They receive their funding and staffing from the towns they serve and have their own budgets. That means the Smithfield library does not disperse the state funding it receives to its peers.
Rather, the Smithfield library spends many of its state dollars on its cataloging system, which each county library uses to track and share each others’ books. Jeff Jennings, vice president of the Smithfield library’s board of directors, said the state funds also process new books, audio books and DVDs before they go into the cataloging system, among other things.
The amount of state funding for the Smithfield library is based on a block-grant formula, which the State Library uses for county and regional systems. Johnston’s seven libraries are technically independent entities, but the state recognizes them as parts of a county system.
The Town of Clayton, which announced plans earlier this year to break away from the Johnston County network, will be recognized as a municipal library system. State grants for municipal systems are calculated using a different formula, one that takes into acount an area’s per-capita income and population.
Christie Starnes, the director of Clayton’s Hocutt-Ellington Memorial Library, said it’s not all about the money.
“Funding is not the impetus to Clayton’s request to be formally recognized by the State Library of North Carolina; it is so we can provide superior service to our community,” Starnes said. “We intend to seek broad sources of varied funding opportunities.”
Jennifer Pratt, the State Library’s chief of library development, said Clayton’s state aid allocation won’t just mean funding. State recognition means the library will also be eligible for continuing education programs, consultant support and summer reading programs, among other services.
Pratt said very few libraries have broken away from a county system to create their own. “It’s not very common at all,” she said.
In addition to the state funding, the Smithfield library receives a large chunk of its money from Johnston County and the Town of Smithfield. During the 2012-13 fiscal year, the county gave the library $441,000, while Smithfield gave about $257,000.
The Smithfield library also gets some revenue from fines and fees, as well as a number of memorial and endowment funds.
The library’s savings total more than $2 million; however, much of that money is tied up in endowments and other funds, which restrict how the library can spend the money.
For instance, of the total $2.08 million in savings in 2012-13, about $900,000 was in a “plant fund,” which the library can use only for repairs to its building on East Market Street. Another $540,000 was in memorial and endowment funds, with specific restrictions.
“Often we receive memorial or honorarium monies to purchase books or other materials on specific topics of interest,” Jennings said. “If these gifts are received at the end of the budget year and are unable to be spent, we must carry that money over into the next year.”
In 2012-13, about $637,000 of the library’s savings was unrestricted.