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Knox library faces Federal cutback


State and federal funds are being withheld from Knox County Public Library as a result of a violation of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, a state librarian said.

The funds being withheld, however, are not a significant portion of the library’s budget.

“As I understand it, right now it is about fifty-five thousand dollars of library funds that have been frozen,” John Owings, law director for Knox County, said. “The budget that was approved was … twelve million, two hundred and thirty-four thousand, six hundred and ninety-eight dollars.”

As far as how this freeze will impact the Farragut branch, Owings said, “I don’t know the effect of that, and I don’t know that we know as a system what the effect will be yet.”

The freeze stems from a complaint from the Five Points Village Library committee that the County violated Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act when it relocated the Burlington branch library. Owings said the Title VI commission ruled in favor of the Five Points Village Library

committee.

“[The decision] said Knox County was in violation of Title Six for the relocation of its [Burlington branch] library,” he said. “It specifically said that Knox County made its decision, that is the Mayor and the Mayor’s office, made the decision without adequate public input.”

He said the branch was moved “nine hundred and thirty-one feet due east” from its previous

location.

“You could hit it with a rock from the old location,” he added.

Owings said the decision does not indicate funds have been or will be frozen.

“We still haven’t received official notice that the money is being withheld. What we have is an e-mail communication from the state librarian [Jeanne Sugg] that suggests that is what they are going to do. … There’s nothing in the findings to indicate that our funds have been frozen. I have not received any other communication, like from the Secretary of State, that our funds have been frozen.”

Jeanne Sugg, state librarian and archivist, sent Knox County Library Director Larry Frank the e-mail notifying Knox County of the withholding. She said a letter from Judy Bond-McKissack, legal counsel to the Secretary of State, to the federal government was copied to Frank.

“There is a letter that was copied to Mister Frank, and it was written April tenth; I think the same day I wrote the e-mail. The letter is the letter to the general counsel at the Institute of Museum and Library Services. It really is the official piece, although it is not written directly to Larry Frank. It says … ‘the department could not continue to fund Knox County in the face of what appears to be a violation of Title six. Accordingly we have notified Knox County that all state and federal funding is being frozen pending your review of the facts.’”

She said money was withheld for the fourth quarter of the library’s fiscal year: April, May and June 2007. She also said money will continue to be withheld until she is told otherwise.

“We’re waiting for the judgment from the federal government, and that’s the Institute of Museum and Library Services,” she added.

She said IMLS told the state, because it was a Title VI complaint, it was required to do something about it.

“My instructions from the Secretary of State, from his legal counsel Judy Bond-McKissack, were that I should send an e-mail to Mister Frank and tell him, because IM-L-S said we were not going to get our three-point-two million dollars of federal funding for state libraries unless we took some action against this.”

Knox County Public Library is also being audited by the state, and Owings said he believes it is the result of the county questioning the state’s investigation.

“We received notice, very shortly after we began to question the state’s investigation and their judgment in this matter,” he said. “It would appear that it would certainly be related to our questioning the investigation by the Title Six compliance director.”

 

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