UF helps keep libraries afloat

Published 2:09 am Saturday, October 25, 2008

Andalusia, Opp and Florala public libraries enjoyed successful summer reading initiatives this year, but that success may not be repeated next year if funding is not provided.

The county’s public libraries, as well as more than 30 other non-profit organizations throughout the county, are anxiously awaiting the outcome of the 2008 Covington County United Fund Drive. Almost all of the agencies will face deep cuts to their budgets next year due to the current state of the economy and those cuts make the CCUF’s goal of raising $162,000 this year even more important than in previous years.

Opp Public Library director Gail Claire said the loss of funding from the CCUF would lead to severe cuts for their summer reading program.

“Our summer reading program is where we mainly use our fund donations,” Claire said. “We use it to buy incentives, prizes and other materials to enhance the program.

“Kids like to be rewarded and they like to do hands on things that make reading fun,” she added. “Last year we bought some books to enhance the program and it really helped to get the children more involved. The program would not go away, but it would be drastically different.”

Public libraries offer the summer reading program to enhance interest in reading among children. Some of those children, according to Claire, would not read otherwise.

“The children we reach most of the time with our summer reading program are children who would not read otherwise,” she said. “They are not children whose parents buy them a book in the store from time to time. Most of the time their parents don’t buy them books at all.”

Karen Taylor, director of the Andalusia Public Library, said the money they receive from CCUF also supports their summer reading program, but a number of other things could be affected if the $162,000 goal is not met.

“We also use the funds to purchase hand puppets for a storybook presentations throughout the year,” she said. “Many times we present popular fairy tales during our puppet shows and children are anxious to read the book after the show is finished.

Decreased funding paired with pending cuts from the state would make things much tighter around the library, according to Taylor, and several enhancements gained over the last several years would most likely be taken away.

“We use the money to provide prizes and incentives throughout the year,” she said. “We would most likely cut back on our periodical subscriptions and some other areas. Our library has grown quite a bit over the years and I would hate to have to take those steps back.”

Renee LeMaire, board member of the CCUF, said progress has been labored for this year’s drive and some pledge packets still need to be picked up by local businesses.

“Several businesses have not yet obtained their packets from the Andalusia Area Chamber of Commerce,” LeMaire said. “We normally have volunteers to disperse those packets, but we have been shorthanded this year. If a business normally donates to the United Fund each year and they have not gotten anything yet, then they should stop by the chamber to obtain the packet.”

LeMaire said Powersouth Energy Cooperative and Shaw Industries are currently conducting internal United Fund drives and look to complete those at the end of the month.

“We do not have any exact numbers at this time, but it is my understanding that things are going well with both of those businesses,” she said. “We should come close to if not meet our goal with the completion of those drives.”

For more information about the 2008 CCUF Drive contact the Andalusia Area Chamber of Commerce at (334) 222-2030, the Opp Chamber of Commerce at (334) 493-3070 or Florala High School principal Terry Holley at (334) 858-3765.