Deb Murphy

Seventy-seven percent, or 75,855 books in Inyo County’s Free Library, has been catalogued into a database. The only thing between that number and full automation, including the next step—a circulation element–is money.

Toward that end, Rick Delmas from Friends of the Bishop Library, offered the county $18,000 to hire a consultant, not to complete the automation, but for “new eyes” on the project.

Rick Benson, Inyo’s assistant administrative officer, presented two proposals at a recent Board of Supervisors meeting, one for the $18,000, another for $10,000 plus travel expenses from Ohio. However, the monies are not budgeted and “the Friends have not committed to paying.”

The cataloging component of automation, basically, puts all the information once found in a library card catalogue, in a database and available over the Internet. The final component, circulation, would automate the check-out and return process.

Friends’ funds kick-started the process with a $75,000 grant in 2012. The library used $23,393 toward the project but funding was cut off when the organization lost its tax status in 2014, the same year the library suffered a budget cut. Since then, County librarian Nancy Masters told the Board, staff has continued the process, just at a much slower pace.

Masters presented the Board with the numbers including equipment costs of $3,895 needed to complete the circulation component—bar coding library patrons. With $20,000, Masters said, the Bishop branch could be fully automated and the Lone Pine branch close to full automation within six months. Without the extra funding, Masters estimated the process would take 14 months.

Delmas questioned whether the library staff had “the vision” or was capable of completing the project without that $18,000 “road map.” He indicated the Friends would be willing to provide funds to help the library automate, but not unless the County had a consultant’s road map.

The Supervisors didn’t seem to agree. “What do we gain with a consultant?” Supervisor Dan Totheroh asked. “They say the best way to prove government doesn’t work is to underfund it.”

County Administrative Officer Kevin Carunchio and Supervisor Matt Kingsley suggested closing the library one week a month and using the two trained staff members to complete the cataloging or using volunteers to allow staff to concentrate on cataloging the remaining inventory. That solution gained ground with the Supervisors.

The outcome: Masters and Benson will come back to the Board in three weeks with a plan and firm deadlines.

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