BY BILL JONES
The T. Elmer Cox Historical and Genealogical Library, which has been temporarily closed since Oct. 12, plans to re-open on Wednesday, Oct. 28, but with dramatically reduced hours of operation.
The Historical and Genealogical Library, a branch of the Greeneville-Greene County Public Library, is located at 229 N. Main St.
The total number of operational hours per week for the Cox Library under the new schedule will be reduced to 20 from the previous 38, and the facility will be open four days a week instead of six, according to an announcement Wednesday by Don Miller.
Miller, who has served as director of the Historical and Genealogical Library for years, was named the new executive director of the Greeneville-Greene County Public Library in late September.
In that role, he will be responsible for overseeing both the main library and the Historical and Genealogical Library. Previously, the two facilities had separate directors.
In addition to Miller's duties at the Cox Library, he had been serving as the main library's acting director since the retirement of former executive director Madge Walker in December 2008.
The announced new schedule for the Cox Library will be:
* Monday - closed (previously open 10 a.m.-6 p.m.);
* Tuesday - closed (previously open 10 a.m.-5 p.m.);
* Wednesday - 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (previously open 10 a.m.-5 p.m.);
* Thursday - 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (previously open 10 a.m.-5 p.m.);
* Friday - 1 to 5 p.m. (previously open 10 a.m.-4 p.m.);
* Saturday - 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (previously open 10 a.m.-1 p.m.);
* Sunday - closed (same as previous schedule).
In an interview today, Miller said the same services that have traditionally been offered at the Cox Historical and Genealogical Library will continue to be offered, although the library's operating hours will be reduced.
He said that he and part-time employees June Pinkston and Mitzi Bible will continue to staff the Cox Library.
The statement released Wednesday included an apology to the public for any inconvenience caused by the temporary closing of the Historical and Genealogical Library since Oct. 12.
In the telephone interview this morning, Miller said he made the decision to propose a reduction in the hours of operation at the Cox Library because his new responsibilities at the main library require him to be there more than would have been possible if he also had to devote as much time to the Cox Library as he previously had devoted.
Closing the Cox Library on Monday and Tuesday will enable him to remain at the Greeneville-Greene County Public Library on those days, which are traditionally the busiest days of the week at the main library, Miller said.
He said he regrets having to reduce hours of operation at the Cox Library, but simply felt that his new duties at the main library could not be adequately performed if he had to continue to spend much of the week at the Cox Library as well.
"I had just been bouncing back and forth," he stated.
He said he had proposed the reductions in the Cox Library's operating hours to Library Board Chairman John McInturff, who had approved the changes.
However, Miller noted, the decision on curtailing the Cox Library's operating hours is still subject to final approval by the full Library Board.
He said this morning that the decision to reduce hours at the Cox Library was unrelated to a funding cut for the library made by the Greene County Commission this year as an economy move.
"It's a separate issue," Miller said.
REDUCTION IN FUNDING
During the Oct. 19 meeting of the Greene County Commission, retired Greeneville-Greene County Public Library Executive Director Madge Walker asked that $1,600 in funding that had been removed from the county government's annual library appropriation for 2009-2010 be restored.
Walker said she was concerned when she read that the county's Budget & Finance Committee recommended against providing $1,600 needed to bring library funding up to last year's level.
The funds are critical, she said. Typically, Greeneville follows the county's lead in financing joint ventures such as the library, so a cut by the county government is matched by a cut by the Greeneville Board of Mayor and Aldermen.
Walker said that perhaps "a misunderstanding" occurred because the committee did not receive a complete-enough explanation of the need for the funds.
She said that this year, as in years past, if the county does not "maintain the same level of effort" -- meaning the same level of financial contributions from the local governments -- then state funding to the library can be cut.
Walker said the local library's circulation system and all its computers are tied to the state-funded Watauga Regional Library, and "they pay for it."
She said that if state funding were to be cut, the loss of computer lines and other services that the state now covers would be hard for the library to overcome.
Many low-income people come to the library to use computers to fill out online forms to file for unemployment compensation, she said.
SOURCE OF FUNDING SUGGESTED
Walker suggested that the $1,600 might come from the portion of the county's hotel/motel tax designated for tourism, and explained why.
Every year, she said, "hundreds of people from all over the state" and nation come to Greeneville to use the T. Elmer Cox Historical and Genealogical Library's records, "and while here they stay in hotels and motels" and eat in restaurants, paying local sales taxes and the hotel/motel tax.
For the reasons stated, Walker said, "I hope you can keep that money in the budget."
No action was taken at the County Commission meeting, since the matter was not on the agenda, and none of the commissioners commented on her statement.
However, County Mayor Alan Broyles has said that he will continue to explore ways to provide adequate funds for the library.
Until Oct. 28, anyone with an urgent need for a public record is asked to call Miller at the Greeneville-Greene County Public Library, 638-5034.