By Ashley Rader
The Elizabethton Library Board gave the go ahead to start the process of consolidating the Elizabethton Library Board and the Carter County Public Library Board into a single governing body for the Elizabethton/Carter County Public Library.
The board approved a letter to Charles Sherrill, State Librarian and Archivist, to ask for his guidance on the merging of the two boards. The letter was approved by both boards and was signed by both chair persons.
According to the letter, the topic of combining the city and county library boards has been discussed for at least the past seven years. Uncertainty about the proper procedure and fear of jeopardizing the Elizabethton/Carter County Public Library’s standing with the state library had delayed any action on the decision.
“We are all very proud of our public library and do not wish to take any action which would be detrimental to it or to the public we serve,” the letter stated. “However, we believe a single library board would better provide the necessary guidance and governance for the library to fulfill its mission.”
Library Director Mel Goff said the change would not have any affect on the operations at the library. It would streamline the governing processes of the library by reducing the number of meetings that staff would have to attend.
Currently, the Carter County board acts as an advisory board and the city board is the governing board. The boards meet quarterly and the members are appointed by their respective governing bodies; the County Commission and City Council, based on the recommendations of other members of the board. The library is a division of the city and is classified as an outside agency by the county for their budget processes. The city provides almost 93 percent of the library’s operating budget and covers all the capital costs for the library. However, the county board was formed three years before the city board. The county board was first assembled in 1946 and the city board in 1949.
The boards sent the letter to the state librarian seeking guidance to make sure that the move to consolidate the boards would be in compliance with the Tennessee Code Annotated, any acts of the Tennessee Legislature and that it would not damage the relationship the ECCPL has with the regional library system.
Board Chairman Richard Barker said he wanted to make sure that it was known the employees at the library would remain employees of the city. He also requested that since the city provides the majority of funding to the library that the combined board have a majority of representation from the city.
The board also turned over pursuing the combined boards to City Planning and Development Director Jon Hartman. The Planning Department oversees the operations of the library. Barker noted that the board had taken the move as far as they could and it was now up to the city to handle the rest.
Goff informed the board that City Council would be voting on a request to repair the damaged portion of the library’s roof during their meeting tonight. The roof over the older Post Office portion of the library is damaged and leaks in some areas. The most recent leak was over the Archives Room which did hurt some of the materials, but did not completely destroy them.
She said part of the repair request was for the city to use surplus funds that were designated for the library in the last budget year, but were not used then to repair the roof.
Also, the library is pursuing two federal grants and one state grant to provide extra funding for the archives. The archives will likely be receiving a donation of the original blueprints and engineering drawings from the Bemberg plant.