Leader Blues

Saturday, January 02, 2010

TOP STORY >> Proposed new Sherwood library to be discussed

Leader staff writer

A temporary sales tax could pay for a new Sherwood Library. Residents and officials will discuss the proposal at a 6:30 p.m. Tuesday meeting at Amy Sanders Library in Sherwood.

Mayor Virginia Hillman says she sees the need for a larger facility. She says an added benefit would be that the police department, which is also cramped for space, could expand into the vacated city-owned building.

“It would be up to the people to support a tax for 18 months – if the people want to embrace it, we’ll do it,” Hillman said.

“The library we have, there is no parking, and there is a waiting list for kids’ programs because we don’t have the facilities for them.”

Hillman added, “The myth is out there that people don’t use libraries anymore, but that is just not true.”

She said that anyone who thinks that is so should go to one of the Central Arkansas Library System branches with a large parking lot.

“Just look at the crowds at the libraries in Jacksonville and Maumelle,” Hillman said.

Alderman Charles Harmon noted, “Libraries are not just about books anymore.” And that is one of the shortcomings of Sherwood’s library, some say.

When the library was built 20 years ago, tools such as computers, the Internet and PowerPoint were not available. Now, many people come to libraries expecting that technology to be available, Hillman said.

But at the Amy Sanders Library, “there is not a place to put it,” Hillman observed at a recent city council meeting.

For people out of work and needing to process a job application, a library with computers for public use provides a critical service, Hillman said.

“Space is the biggest issue,” agreed assistant library manager Matthew Landers.

The library is hampered by lack of space for additional computers as well as meeting and study rooms. There is one meeting room that will accommodate 25 people and no study rooms.

Landers said that the library staff definitely supports building a larger facility. But the word of the public forum on Tuesday, organized by Sherwood residents, came as a surprise to employees there.

“We didn’t know anything about it,” Landers said. “The meeting will be a way to gauge support, to allow the public to say what they’d want – to do it, or that they don’t want it.”

Any new library will not affected by a ruling by the Arkansas Supreme Court last week that the Central Arkansas Library System illegally collected $1.5 million in taxes in 2008 from Little Rock residents, said CALS deputy director Linda Bly.

Little Rock residents in 2007 had voted in favor of the tax. But the court ruled that because of missed deadlines, the collection of the tax should not have commenced when it did.

“The election itself was not in question, but when we could collect the tax,” Bly explained. “Our shortfall is just for a year, so come January next year, we will be collecting that money again.”