Hancock County Library System could soon see changes

Hancock County Library System could soon see changes

HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The future of the Hancock County Library system is in the process of being decided. The county's board of supervisors have been discussing the structure of the system for some time now.

Running a library efficiently can be tricky, but the director of the library system in Hancock County said she and her staff have it figured out.

"We are running five libraries very well on a budget that's smaller than when we inherited the fifth library," said Library System Director Courtney Thomas said.

Supervisors have been exploring options for running it with an even smaller budget. One of the most recent options involved hearing from a third party company that proposed taking the system over. Supervisors ultimately decided against that option.

One item that did get approval was an interlocal agreement. Thomas said this will replace the libraries' current contract that was written in 1991. But she's not satisfied.

"That interlocal just talks about caps on funding by the counties and the city. It talks about the new board structure and it also tries to tie the hands of our administrative board of trustees in terms of the powers they have," she said.

According to Thomas, the library's board is currently made up of two members from the county, two from Bay Saint Louis, and one from Waveland. The new agreement calls for three from the county and one from Bay Saint Louis and Waveland each. Thomas contests this decision, saying she's concerned that the county will have a majority on the board.

According to Board President Blaine LaFontaine, the proposed structure reflects the current number of branches per municipality, which is different than it was in 1991.

"Diamondhead in East Hancock, Pearlington, as well as Kiln. Then you have the Waveland branch and you have Bay Saint Louis. So as our system has grown, we don't necessarily believe that the responsibility or makeup of that board represents today's footprint," said LaFontaine.

According to LaFontaine, the agreement also includes opportunities to save almost $130,000 in local government funds.

"And those savings directly do not impact operations, they do not impact services, and more importantly in those situations, they expand the materials budget," he said.

The savings could help fund other needs in the county, like infrastructure, according to the board president.

This interlocal agreement now goes to the cities of Bay Saint Louis and Waveland for approval. If approved, it will go into effect October first.

There is a petition gathering signatures in support of keeping the library system the same as it is. That petition accrued 450 signatures in its first 48 hours.

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