Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

Shelved

Tennessee’s regional libraries are meeting the “financial squeeze” with radical changes

A proposed remodeling of Tennessee’s regional library systems will shrink the current number of regional centers from twelve to nine and cut their staffing by almost half, but it will also allow for a more modernized system to exist in spite of ever-shrinking funding for state libraries. An article in the Library Journal details the new services: “Under the new system, public libraries will no longer have to order their materials through the regional systems, which also currently process and deliver the materials. Cataloging and processing services will be outsourced, and public libraries will be able to order directly online, while vendors will do the processing, and materials will be shipped directly to libraries.”

Readers in Knoxville, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Memphis have little to worry about from the proposal, as their libraries constitute the four Single County Metropolitan Regions, which are unaffected by these changes. But for readers in smaller towns like Tiptonville, which falls under the Forked Deer Regional Library system, the shrinkage could prove irksome. Tiptonville Public Library director Scarlett Algee told the Library Journal that with the planned consolidation of regions “the [regions] left will be doing more work with less people and that puts more responsibility on the individual libraries and a lot of us don’t have very big budgets.”

There’s also the more fundamental problem of distance between libraries and their centers, as Sharon Simpson, director of the McIver’s Grant Public Library in Dyersburg, explained: “When I go to my region I’m 20 minutes away, the new one will be at least an hour or more and with only a small staff it’s hard to get away.”

Changes like these are in the DNA of a troubled state economy: they provide benefits and efficiencies that are long overdue while simultaneously ending “luxuries,” such as proximity and higher employment, in order to provide for the upgrade. Whether the practical costs will match the improvements is a question Tennesseans must answer over the next few years by continuing to support and provide feedback to their local library systems.

To read the full article by the Library Journal, click here.

To learn more about the regional library system, visit the Tennessee State Library and Archives’ website, here.