The Auburn City Council voted unanimously last week to help fund multiple public libraries over a four-county area.
“Even though this doesn’t directly benefit Auburn, I believe our workforce within Auburn is drawn from our surrounding counties,” Councilman Kelley Griswold said before the vote. “I see this as beneficial to near-term future workforce improvement, so I’ll be supporting this.”
A contract between the Auburn Public Library and Horseshoe Bend Regional Library in Dadeville was up for renewal. Through this agreement, Auburn provides $45,846 in state funds to Horseshoe Bend, or about 10% of Horseshoe Bend’s yearly operating budget.
As a regional library, Horseshoe Bend then distributes those funds to 10 libraries across Lee, Tallapoosa, Elmore, and Coosa Counties.
“When we redistribute state aid, we give them thousands of dollars more than they would otherwise have, and we also support them as a regional library,” said Deja Ruddick, director of Horseshoe Bend Regional Library.
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Although Auburn has participated in this agreement since 1960, Tuesday was the first time the city council had to make a decision on the contract, which had previously been handled by the Library Board.
“This state money which Auburn has so generously shared with us for more than half a century has done incalculable good as it’s been routed through our regional library, redistributed in part to smaller libraries in our system and used to benefit all of our outreach patrons in four counties,” Ruddick said. “When it comes down to it, I realize that Auburn Public Library does not need Horseshoe Bend Regional Library, but let me be perfectly clear, our regional library needs Auburn Public Library.”
Auburn is just one of several cities that provides state funds to Horseshoe Bend. Through its agreement with the regional library, Auburn acts as part of a larger collective in which the amount of money given is determined by each city’s population. The larger the city, the more money the city gives. According to Ruddick, Auburn’s contribution is almost equal to all other libraries in the region combined.
Tyler Whitten, the director of Auburn Public Library said the funding approved by the state legislature for fiscal year 2023 is $1.19 per capita.
Fifty per cent of Auburn’s state funds goes to the collective, and the remaining 50 per cent gets passed back to Auburn in four quarterly payments.
When asked if the other cities would have a hard time replacing the money if Auburn pulled out, Whitten agreed with Ruddick.
“I could definitely say they would have a difficult time doing that. They rely on the funds,” Whitten said.
According to Ruddick, many of the libraries are in small underserved rural areas.
“Not all libraries are as passionately and generously funded as Auburn’s,” she said. “To be perfectly frank, the entire yearly budget of some of these libraries is equal to or significantly less than the amount of state aid Auburn shares with us.”