January 30, 2013
Only about two percent of library users impacted by a fee implemented at the start of the year have paid to keep checking out books and other materials at Jefferson-Madison Regional Library.
The $30 annual fee targets people who live outside of Charlottesville, Albemarle, Greene, Louisa and Nelson counties, making up about 9,000 of the library's users.
So far, about 200 people have applied and paid for a non-resident card. Library director John Halliday says most of those cards were sold at its Northside and Scottsville branches and purchased by Fluvanna County residents.
It is too early to predict a long-term impact of the fee, according to Halliday, but he says about half of libraries in Virginia already charge non-resident and have seen a decrease in visitors.
Halliday says some local library users are upset about the charge.
"The main complaint that we hear is that people say, even though they live outside of the area, they do pay taxes, " Halliday said. "We understand that, that certainly they pay taxes if they shop in our area or go to a restaurant or buy gasoline."
But Halliday says most of the funding for the library comes from property taxes, which is why officials decided the non-resident fee made the most sense to include in the Regional Library Agreement.
The funds from the non-resident fee will be used as a credit for the library's jurisdictions to reduce their payments for library services.
In October, the library will look at how much money was raised from the fee and the reaction region-wide to decide if the annual charge is worth continuing.