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From the Desk of
County Commissioner Billy Shreve

Regarding Libraries

(12/2012) Question … Is Commissioner Shreve trying to censor the library systems purchases?

Answer: No … No, and … No.

Question … Why do I ask so many questions about our libraries?

Answer: I am seeking to understand how our libraries work. I am seeking to learn how and why Frederick County Government will spend $9,742,176 of your tax dollars this year to maintain Frederick County Public Libraries. I ask lots of questions to every entity that is requesting to spend tax payer dollars. Isn’t it a good idea for your elected officials to learn more about how your tax dollars are being spent?

Question … Who proposed the Board of County Commissioners be given a list of the previous quarter’s purchases by the library?

Answer: Darrell Batson, Director, Frederick County Public Libraries.

Question … Who proposed the Board of County Commissioners approve the budget to purchase media quarterly versus annually?

Answer: Darrell Batson, Director, Frederick County Public Libraries.

I want to thank the citizens who have contacted me or written letters to the Frederick News-Post. I value your support and feedback. That’s what we want in government, citizen participation. So now that the conversation has started, let me clarify a few things.

Recently editorials in the local papers have stated, "the library is no place for politicians." The same editorials also alluded that the elected Board of County Commissioners should have no oversight of the library publications and purchases. I disagree.

I am very proud of our local library system and the job they do. In FY 2011 the libraries had over 1.1 million walk in visits and another 800,000 visits on-line. This equals 5,629 visits per day.

A good library also comes with a hefty price tag. In fiscal year 2013 the County Commissioners adopted a budget which expends $9,742,176 to the Frederick County Public Libraries system. This was an increase of $171,427, or 1.79% over the previous year. As a matter of fact, the fiscal year library budget from 2011, the last budget adopted by the previous County Commissioners, was $8,362,162. This represented a budget cut of more than $400,000 from the 2010 budget by the previous Gardner/Hagen Board of County Commissioners.

The term "politician" has an understandably bad connotation in our society, but that is the name given to those we elect to serve and represent us. I personally consider myself a citizen legislator. By serving and representing the citizens of our great county, every elected official has not only a right, but an absolute moral and fiscal obligation to insure that all public monies are being well spent. Every county tax dollar spent is being closely scrutinized by this Board.

As a guardian of the taxpayers’ money and by the power invested in me by the Maryland State Constitution, it is my responsibility to see what our taxpayer dollars are purchasing. I want to know what equipment, services, books, and materials we are getting. I have that right and obligation to ask these questions on behalf of the citizens of Frederick County. Nobody gets a blank check for $1 million on my watch.

Further, I believe it was the following statement, printed in the Frederick News-Post’s article on October 10, 2012, that may have caused some to wonder about my true intentions, "Why should my tax dollars pay for someone else's recreation? Why should my tax dollars pay for someone to watch 'Charlie's Angels' or 'Battlestar Galactica' or read about Lindsay Lohan?" This statement in isolation could come across as scary, I understand that. I am not faulting the reporter, this is what I said. This phrase in the general discussion of why do we buy things that we can get on the internet for free is not so scary. It is a very relevant and timely.

I can watch past episodes of almost any sitcom on the internet for free. I can watch new episodes of sitcoms hours or mere days after the original showing. Our library system now has built to the point where books account for 68% of total circulations in the system, and electronic media accounts for the rest.

A strong follow up question then is … Should the Library continue to provide things we can get on the internet for free or should the Library provide things to get onto the internet for free?

I understand the need for hard books that can be held in your hand and the need for brick and mortar buildings but I need to ask, what does the Library of the future look like and what will be on the shelves? (Shelves in this context used metaphorically: 0)

I ask that everyone should please feel free to share your thoughts …

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