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Library board, voters must both act early

Saturday, February 20, 2021
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Well, I already wrote a column about snow last month, and I don’t really have a column’s worth more to say about it, despite the extra severity of the weather this time around.

So while I’ve been sitting at home not doing much all week, for this column I think I’ll look a little further ahead to something coming up later this year that’s not quite so exciting as snow but still important: the fate of the Lincoln Parish Library and its funding.

Last year, the library and its Board of Control were facing the expiration of the 10-year property tax that has paid for the vast majority (and I do mean vast) of the facility’s operations.

Whatever renewal they put together would last another 10 years if passed, so they looked to the future — how the costs of supplying current services could increase and how they might provide new services to patrons as well.

That’s what they said led them to the millage they ended up putting on the ballot in December, which would have brought in more than $300,000 in extra revenue than what the library was previously seeing.

But while they may have been looking to the future, the present wasn’t so friendly, and that’s what voters were focused on. The renewal came during a year when the COVID-19 pandemic had completely changed the economic landscape, and many local businesses had been suffering for many months.

So while the increased millage request may have been forwardthinking for the next 10 years, all many voters could see was the dissonance between the library’s lofty ambitions and the public’s current bleak reality. And the library’s vision wasn’t, in my opinion, clearly communicated to the public as much as it could have been.

So the renewal failed. And now the library will be in a do-or-die situation this fall when it asks for another tax (at some unknown level as of now) to fund operations.

In the grand scheme of things, the library doesn’t make enough revenue from other sources to pay for much of anything, certainly not its staff, materials or building upkeep.

So the onus is on the library board to come up with something that voters can accept, and they have to get started as early as possible.

They have to find a number, probably a bare-minimum one, that won’t put undue burden on taxpayers while still allowing the library’s services to those taxpayers to continue. Forget the ambitious improvements that were planned if the last vote had passed and focus on what it’ll take to stay afloat and keep the fixture of this community that the library is alive.

But more than that, once the number is reached, the library has to be proactive, as early and as often as possible, in properly and comprehensively communicating the reasoning for that number to the public. “Here’s what we need, here’s what we plan to do with it, and here’s the situation if it fails” are the basics that need to be explained well before the election in October rolls around.

Likewise, voters need to take an early start as well. Start paying attention to what’s going on right now, not a week or two before the vote. If you have to ask people on Facebook what this is all about in, say, late September, then you’re not going to be in a position to make an informed decision. These issues don’t just spring out of the ground overnight.

Attend library board meetings. Read up on the recent history at

Head to the library and see for yourself what they offer. Talk to the staff. Call the board members, and maybe your police juror too. Become aware of the situation before the time comes to cast your vote.

I truly hope something can be reached this year that we can all live with.

Caleb Daniel is the Ruston Daily Leader’s Digital News Editor. Caleb is a Louisiana Tech University graduate who covers the Lincoln Parish Police Jury and schools for the Ruston Leader.