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Pioneerland asking Renville County to increase support

OLIVIA — Pioneerland Library is asking Renville County to increase its support for library services by 3 percent.

Pioneerland Executive Director Mark Ranum told the County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday that the budget request is aimed at meeting needs for staffing, operations and acquiring materials for library collections. It’s also part of an effort to close the “gap’’ between the level of support provided by Renville County as compared to other counties in the regional system, and communities in the county.

“Renville County has not kept pace with other county partners in (Pioneerland Library System) over the past five years,’’ he stated in a letter to the commissioners.

Renville County residents pay $12.50 per capita for library services. City residents in the five communities hosting libraries pay anywhere from $25.50 to $34.20 per capita, according to information provided the commissioners.

Pioneerland has been working to cut its staffing costs by reducing the number of head librarians through attrition. Allison Girres, Olivia’s head librarian, also oversees three other libraries in the county, Ranum and Girres noted. There are 16 head librarians in the 32-library system today.

Legacy Amendment funds — from the sales tax approved by voters in 2008 — have allowed Pioneerland to expand the programming it offers at libraries, such as author visits. The system has also been able to increase the amount of state and federal support it receives for broadband capacity at its libraries, from $480,000 to roughly $700,000 a year.

But local taxpayer support has not kept pace with needs. Ranum said the system can only devote 8 percent of its budget to materials acquisition for the collections, when it should be committing 12 to 15 percent.

He asked the commissioners to consider raising the county’s support to help the system meet its needs and out of a sense of equity and partnership.

“We do want you to step up,’’ he said. He added that the system was fully aware that other priorities led the county to reduce its support last year.

The 3 percent increase being sought is based on the requested amount for 2014, and would raise the county support to $120,006.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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