Sussex libraries, county form grant agreement

GEORGETOWN — Public libraries in Sussex County are a multimillion-dollar endeavor, and now, an agreement is in place to foster stewardship and accountability in the independent libraries.

For the first time, Sussex County Council on Tuesday approved a grant agreement for the 11 independent libraries. The agreement capped a yearlong collaboration between the Sussex County Department of Libraries and the Independent Library Group.

“It started out as an idea shared by all of us that any organization receiving public funds must be able to show that they are good stewards of the tax dollars,” said Sussex County librarian Kathy Graybeal. “An added benefit for this for the independents is that it shows not just accountability, but clear business planning, so that when they are applying for other grants and other awards that they qualify for, they already have this in their pocket.”

County Council cast unanimous 5-0 support, following a brief presentation by Ms. Graybeal.

“It certainly is something that has been needed for a while,” said Sussex County Council President Michael Vincent. “It’s a good thing. It will help, I think, our relationship with the independents and the county government.”

Highlights of the grant agreement include:
• Acceptance of a formula-based funding allocation. The formula is evaluated at the end of each budget cycle to determine suitability for the upcoming fiscal year. Categories for the FY21 formula include class and program attendance, library visits, materials circulated, internet sessions, early literacy activities, employment and computer classes, and cultural programming and health classes.
• Establishment of financial policies and procedures that, at a minimum, address financial responsibilities, conflict of interest, budget process, receipt-of-funds procedures and disbursement-of-funds procedures.
• Commitment to full compliance with the Sussex County Department of Libraries’ financial and statistical report requirements outlined in the Checklist of Reports.
• A pledge to ensure qualified library/public service staff by fully participating in the approved Stepping Stones Learning and Growth Library Certification programs developed and managed by the Sussex County Department of Libraries.

Sussex County’s FY21 budget includes $3,341,638 for the three county-owned libraries — Greenwood, Milton and South Coastal in Bethany Beach — the mobile library and library administration, according to Sussex County finance director Gina Jennings.

Combined, the 11 independent libraries are budgeted to receive $2,681,200. Independent locations are in Bridgeville, Delmar, Frankford, Georgetown, Laurel, Lewes, Milford, Millsboro, Rehoboth Beach, Seaford and Selbyville.

Currently, 11 of the 14 libraries remain closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but are providing curbside pickup of materials and wireless printing, Ms. Graybeal said.

Seaford, Bridgeville and Frankford libraries have opened to the public with strict safety protocols and limited numbers and hours. Millsboro is allowing one person into their library at a time.