Technology upgrades headline Mountain Regional Library System meeting


BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Several technology upgrades throughout all four Mountain Regional Library System (MRLS) locations were discussed during the quarterly regional board meeting Wednesday, Feb. 7, in Blue Ridge.

All four locations – Towns County Public Library in Hiawassee, Mountain Regional Library in Young Harris, Union County Public Library in Blairsville and Fannin County Public Library in Blue Ridge – now have mobile WiFi hotspots available for checkout to patrons, according to MRLS Director Vince Stone. These units allow anyone to establish a portable Internet WiFi zone using a cellular connection. All units, however, carry a replacement fee of $150 should they become lost or broken while checked out. All of the branch librarians reported the overwhelming popularity of these devices at their locations.

The regional board also discussed and watched a tutorial detailing the recent addition of the RB Digital mobile app to the library system. Patrons using a mobile device can download the RB Digital app and register using their library card number to receive eBooks, audiobooks, and digital magazines. According to FCPL Branch Librarian Andrew Vickers, the app is compatible with most cell phones and mobile tablets. “And the apps are very easy to use,” Vickers added.

Other upgrades within the library system have included, or will soon include, 3D printers, digital scanners, and mobile device charging stations, all available for patrons to use.

Referring to all of the upgrades throughout library system, John Turner, regional board member, stated he was encouraged to see the improvements being utilized by patrons at the locations. “This stuff is really, really neat,” Turner said.

Stone also reported that he had completed all evaluations for the branch librarians in the system. He explained the evaluations were completed by inspecting each facility, performing an audit of the branch’s financial information and conducting a question and answer session with the librarians. Of the evaluations, Stone said, “They were all outstanding.”

The board accepted and approved the second quarter of fiscal year 2017-18 (October through December) financial statement and balance sheet for MRLS. Currently, the library system’s expenses as of Dec. 31 stood at $563,231.78 of the projected $1,033,205.92 for the fiscal year. Reported total revenues stood at $433,289.82 of the projected $1,048,507.03 for the fiscal year. Of this revenue amount, $172,074.03 has come from the state and $218,382.59 has come from local taxing agencies, such as counties and municipalities. Other forms of revenue, Stone explained, come from donations, local Friends of the Library groups, and branch-generated revenue, such as fines, fees and vending.

Stone clarified that although there appears to be a large over-budget amount seen in the year-to-date expenses versus revenue category, state and local revenues tend to increase greatly during the last two quarters, which inevitably balances the finances before the end of the fiscal year.

In other business, Casey Hunley, MRLS interlibrary loan coordinator, will replace Lynn Bartlett as MRLS business manager during the upcoming quarter. Bartlett will be retiring at the end of March, according to Stone.

The regional board also unanimously approved and ratified the hiring of two new employees: Michael Lavery at FCPL and Wendy Erneston at Mountain Regional.

The Food for Fines program is continuing again at MRLS locations throughout the month of February. For each can of food or non-perishable food item with an unexpired date that is received by the library, the patron will receive a one-dollar credit toward any outstanding fines. At the end of the month, all food received will be donated to local area food banks within that library’s county.

The board also heard reports from the branch librarians of the four MRLS locations:

Towns County Public Library (Hiawassee)

TCPL Branch Librarian Debbie Phillips reported the total attendance for the library during the second quarter of fiscal year 2017-18 was 7,887 with a total circulation of 7,808. Phillips stated 39 new library cards were issued during the quarter and the library received 176 new items. As of December 31, the account balance of the library stood at $2,473.78, according to Phillips.

As for events during the quarter, Phillips stated the holiday season, and especially December, was a busy time for the library. Phillips stated the library hosted a Twelve Days Before Christmas series of events, which included a Polar Express-themed event and performances from the Mountain Regional Puppet Company. “Most of the whole month (of December), we had something going on every day,” Phillips explained.

Phillips stated the library is beginning to prepare for its summer reading program and the weekly Storytime is continuing every Thursday at 11 a.m. An Essential Oils for Wellness program will be offered for adults Thursday, March 1, at 1 p.m. Phillips also said plans are in the works for offering an adult class for cooking with an Instant Pot. On Saturday, March 10, at 11 a.m. the library will also host an American Girl party, featuring a hair salon and nail station for girls and their dolls.

The TCPL branch librarian also reported the library is still waiting to receive a 3D printer, which was made available through a technology grant from the Georgia Public Library Service. The Dremel Digilab 3D20 printer, Phillips said, was expected to arrive sometime in January. Once it arrives, the printer will allow patrons to build 3D models by controlling and viewing the building process. Other library upgrades included installation of a computer, which is available for legal professionals to use at TCPL, designed to access the law library of the Towns County Courthouse.

Union County Public Library (Blairsville)

Susie Brendle, UCPL branch librarian, reported second quarter circulation for the library was 39,216 with a total attendance of 28,647. During the quarter, 111 new library cards were issued and 603 new items were received, Brendle said. As of December 31, the account balance for UCPL was $15,090. The library also received a $500 check from Friends of the Union County Public Library in January for the quarter, according to Brendle. “And that brought our 2017 total of Friends money to $3,000,” Brendle explained.

Brendle announced the Friends bake sale held Nov. 22 was a success, bringing in close to $1,000. She said Friends will begin collecting newer books from 2013 forward on Tuesday, Feb. 13, for the May bake sale.

Other upcoming library events will include the continuation of Lego Club the last Wednesday of the month at 3:45 p.m. through April and a Friends-hosted book signing Thursday, Feb. 8, at 3:30 p.m. featuring local author Sylvia Dyer Turnage and promoting her book Flying Off Rattlesnake Mountain. The Feb. 26 Storytime at the library at 11 a.m. will include a Dr. Seuss birthday celebration party with refreshments. On Friday, March 2, which is Theodor “Ted” Seuss Geisel’s 114th birthday, the library will host a Dr. Seuss movie marathon. On Monday, March 5, The Cat in the Hat will visit the library. “Our Friends of the Library have purchased The Cat in the Hat book that they will be handing out to the children,” Brendle explained. “So, we’ll be busy for the next month or so.”

Fannin County Public Library (Blue Ridge)

FCPL Branch Librarian Andrew Vickers reported a total second quarter circulation of 15,723 – a 6 percent increase over last year’s second quarter – with an attendance of 10,458. During the quarter, 95 new library cards were issued and 842 new items were received. The FCPL account balance as of December 31 stood at just over $9,600, according to Vickers. For donations, the library received a $200 donation from the Fannin’s Women Democratic Society, a $500 donation from local resident Linda McDonough and a $2,018 donation from Friends of the Fannin County Public Library.

Vickers said two new county board members, Kathy Tickner and Steven Miracle, were recently appointed to the local library board and two other seat positions from the city of Morganton remain vacant. Vickers reported that he, along with library staff member Darcy Arnell, recently met with Sarah Welch, the literacy coach for Fannin County Schools, in an effort to collaborate with the school system on ideas to help promote early childhood literacy throughout the county. Vickers added Arnell has also worked with seven Head-Start classrooms by doing a Storytime session with each class. In response to popularity of the Tuesday 11 a.m. Storytime session at the library, Vickers stated FCPL is considering adding an afternoon session at 4 p.m.

Upcoming events for FCPL will include the return of Reuben Haller, who will perform as The Cat in the Hat Tuesday, March 13, at 11 a.m. at First Baptist Church of Blue Ridge in celebration Dr. Seuss’ birthday.

Mountain Regional Library (Young Harris)

Vince Stone, director at Mountain Regional Library, said the Young Harris location will also host a Cat in the Hat party Saturday, March 3, and the library will be giving hardcover Dr. Seuss books to all families attending the event. “Last year, we had about 50 kids,” Stone explained. “This year, we’re hoping for 75 to 80.”

Stone also stated MRL will host a subcommittee meeting of the the Georgia Public Library Service Tuesday, Feb. 13. The director said the meeting will allow him a chance to meet and discuss library-related issues with other directors and GPLS representatives from similar-sized libraries and library systems across north Georgia.





Jason Beck

Born in Merrillville, Indiana, raised in Cleveland, Tennessee, and currently resides in Copperhill, Tennessee. Graduated from Bradley Central High School in 1996 and attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, eventually earning a B.A. and M.A. in English. Hobbies include hiking, camping and fly-fishing. Interests include baseball, hockey and cliff jumping.

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