Harrison Co. libraries asking for more money

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The new Biloxi Library on Howard Avenue is about to enter a new chapter in its post-Katrina recovery. Robert Lipscomb can't wait until late-July, when the public gets the chance to check-out the grand, 22,000 square foot building.

"This is a treasure really," said Lipscomb. "It's wonderful. We've been in trailers for six years almost and having a building again is marvelous."

Lipscomb is the director of the Harrison County Library System. He said the new Biloxi Library can't operate full-time with only five employees.

"My concern is when this building opens, the new headquarters building opens, and the downtown Gulfport building opens, we're going to have to increase our staff," said Lipscomb. "I mean, we can't run it with the number of people we have."

The library system has lost about a third of its funding since Katrina, along with 20 positions. Grants and donations are also running out.

In his budget request next month, Lipscomb will ask the county and the cities to restore his funding to pre-Katrina levels. He needs a total of $2.5 million from all those government agencies.

"These buildings, of course, are bigger than the buildings that were destroyed by Katrina and more advanced, more involved. If we can get back to 74 or 76 employees, that would be wonderful," said Lipscomb.

This fiscal year, library employees were forced to take 12 days off without pay, and all branches had to close on certain days. Without the extra funding, Lipscomb said he may have to continue the furloughs and cut operating hours.

"We could reach a situation financially where we would have to lay off even more people, which I think would be a disaster," said Lipscomb. "I'm optimistic that with the commitment the communities have made to these new buildings, that the local people in charge will help us as much as they can."

The library system also relies on state funding, along with federal grants.

Again, the new Biloxi Library should open in late July. The downtown Gulfport Library is expected to open in August. And the headquarters library in Orange Grove should be ready by January.

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