Clayton News-Star

In Clayton, out-of-town library users will have to pay

Most Clayton library patrons might soon have to pay to check out books, use the library’s computers and access digital collections.

As Hocutt-Ellington Memorial Library becomes a standalone library, leaving the county network, it plans to charge patrons who live outside the town limits.

Under the current proposal, nonresidents would pay $25 annually, $15 semiannually or $10 quarterly for a library card. Families could pay $50 annually to use the library.

Nonresidents would also have to pay $5 per hour to access the Internet at the library.

About 65 percent of the library’s nearly 14,500 patrons live outside the town limits, many in larger subdivisions like Flowers Plantation, Ole Mill Stream and White Oak Plantation.

Those nonresidents don’t pay the town property taxes that largely fund Hocutt-Ellington. Councilman Art Holder, who sits on the town’s library board, said that’s not fair to town coffers.

“They’ve been getting their library services for free, where all the people who live in Clayton have been paying the library services for them,” Holder said.

At the Clayton library board’s monthly meeting last Thursday, Holder suggested giving nonresidents another way to get their library card. He said patrons could donate an amount equal to the proposed fee to the Friends of the Library, the nonprofit that raises money for library improvements and programs.

The proposed fees go hand in hand with the town’s broader goal of creating more value for in-town residents.

The fee schedule will become part of a new set of library policies being crafted for a master plan that will go before the council in April. The State Library of North Carolina required the master plan as part of Clayton’s quest to become a standalone library.

Moving forward

The library board didn’t vote on the proposed fees before they were presented to the Town Council on March 16. Board chairwoman Belle Allen said she doesn’t like the idea of fees but is ready to move forward and inform patrons about them as clearly as possible.

“It is what it is, and we have to make it as simple as possible,” Allen said.

“I think my thought was, ‘So many of our supporters don’t live in these little city limits,’” Allen said. “But we are going with it, of course, and will continue to do what we can.”

It’s not uncommon for libraries to charge nonresident patrons. Wake County libraries charge patrons who live outside the county $25 annually for a library card. Orange County libraries also charge nonresidents $25, while Durham County charges $45.

Clayton leaders say they wanted the town’s library fee to roughly equal how much a taxpaying citizen contributes to the library each year. They estimated that amount by dividing the library’s budget by the town’s population, a per-capita calculation. The town also looked at the library budget as a percentage of the entire general fund budget. That figure was 2.4 percent, so the town then calculated 2.4 percent of the average property-tax bill.

Each calculation turned out a proposed annual fee of about $25, said Assistant Town Manager Nancy Medlin.

Standing alone

The Town of Clayton announced last year that it would break away from the Johnston County network of libraries. The announcement worried other towns that currently share books with Clayton.

On June 1, when Clayton’s standalone status becomes official, the town will launch its own cataloging system. That will make sharing books with other Johnston libraries harder. Those libraries use a cataloging system hosted by the Public Library of Johnston County and Smithfield.

The Johnston County libraries and Clayton will stop sharing books on April 1. That mutually-agreed-upon date will allow the county and Clayton libraries 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 Public Library of Johnston County and Smithfield will reassign Clayton-area patrons to another affiliated library.

Clayton will have to issue library cards to its patrons. 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