Downtown site under consideration for possible new library

A downtown site at Fifth Avenue and Chestnut Street is being considered as the location for a new main library, the Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Library System Board of Trustees discussed Thursday.

James Walker, member of an ad hoc committee exploring options for the library building’s future, informed his fellow trustees that he has had several conversations with the property owner.

“What we need is to get the ball rolling so that we can present the public with a substantive time line,” Walker said. “Everybody you talk to will say that a new library is a good idea but we must have something concrete to show people.”

Walker said that the Fifth Avenue property is not a done deal.

“We have to look at whether some locations would require a large amount of security in order to make them safe for patrons,” Walker said. “So the site selection process is ongoing.”

Tom Nisbett of the Nisbett Group is working with the board to develop a fundraising campaign for a new library.

“We are in the exploration phase right now,” Nisbett said. “We are planning to look at examples of new libraries in Monticello, Conway and Heber Springs to see how each of these cities accomplished their goals.”

Nisbett said that funding options could range from a city bond issue that would have to be approved by city and county voters to funding wholly solicited from private donors.

“There are any number of ways to raise the necessary funds,” Nisbett said. “We will work to develop a strategy for meeting your goals.”

Library Director Michael Sawyer said that the ad hoc committee’s next meeting will be 3:30 p.m. Thursday, July 24.

Nisbett said that drumming up support for a new library and then bringing the goal to fruition will be a multi-year process that is only just beginning.

In other business, Sawyer said that the library’s finances continue to impress.

“We are in good financial shape,” Sawyer said to the board. “The library continues to be judicious with its spending. We have received two good payments from the city and will be receiving our quarterly share later this month.”

Trustee Thomas Brown asked Sawyer why the expenditures for microfilm-related expenses were 1,000 percent over budget.

“The Pine Bluff Commercial had been covering that for years but this year they quit,” Sawyer said. “So we moved $127,000 from funds reserved for books and moved it over to microfilm. I felt that it is important for us to keep our microfilm records current.”

Also, the board approved a new set of bylaws for the board of trustees that included a provision for the potential removal of trustees if they are absent from three consecutive meetings without explanation.

And Billy Stone of Kelly & Stone Certified Public Accountants in Pine Bluff briefed the board on the results of his firm’s independent audit of the library’s financial statements from 2012-2013 and said they were in good order.