The Valdosta Daily Times
Darlene Kraushaar is not happy. “Don’t even get me started,” she said.
Kraushaar is upset at the pending closing of the Moody Air Force Base Library, but “restructuring” is the word being used to describe it.
“I went into the library. I hadn’t been in a few weeks, and I went straight to the library catalogue and started looking up some books. One of the technicians came over to me and said, ‘Have you not seen the signs?’ I freaked out,” said Kraushaar.
Posted on the wall is the same notice found on the library’s website that reads, “The funding to maintain the Moody Library services from the Air Combat Command was cut for the Fiscal Year 2014. Effective September 30, 2013, the Library services will undergo restructuring.”
According to Force Support Squadron Commander Major Jonathan Mizell, the situation is not limited to Moody.
“There are nine Air Combat Command bases that are affected, and each one is having to come up with their own plan based on their situation ... Out of those nine, I’ve only heard of four suspensions of service, but that is not something that we intend to do,” said Mizell.
While a plan is being formulated to handle the library’s restructuring, Kraushaar and other patrons have been informed that they are no longer allowed to check out books or other materials and that all items that have been already checked out are to be returned immediately.
“I am very upset,” said Kraushaar, and she is not the only one who is.
According to Ginnie Pajack, whose husband is on active duty, the Moody Learning Resource Center which houses the Moody Library is a “first point of contact” for new families arriving at the base.
“When we first got here, we didn’t know anyone or where anything was. The first thing we did was go to the library,” said Pajack.
Pajack and her family found the library to be a place to build new friendships and learn about the area. When they first arrived, she would bring her two young children to the library with her to meet their father for lunch when he was on break.
“It helps build family and community,” said Pajack.
The Moody Library acts as a kind of a central hub for service men and women and their families. It provides books, of course, but it also engages the Moody community through summer reading programs, craft projects for kids during the holidays and other outreaches. It even provides homeschooling materials for parents looking to provide consistency for their children during frequent moves from base to base.
“We homeschool our children, and we used the library to get hard-to-find books to supplement their education through the inter-library loan program,” said Pajack, “(The closing) is really upsetting for me.”
The effects of the library’s restructuring are not limited to the families of servicemen and women. Active duty personnel up for promotion may also be affected. According to Pajack, airmen use the library to study for exams that are given in preparation for promotion.
“That’s why we are looking for other ways to provide services that the people want here at Moody and obviously deserve. We are looking at as many different options as we can to provide those services,” said Mizell, “but student support is a service we will continue regardless of what happens with the library.”
Many Moody families hope those options are found soon. To Julie Barrett, a mother of three and wife of a veteran, the uncertain future of the library is troubling.
“The library is very important to our family. It is where we get all of our information about what is going on at the base,” said Barrett.
Barrett’s children participated in the library’s summer reading programs and used the computers to learn foreign languages. According to Mizell, some of those programs may continue.
“Most of the concerns I’ve heard have centered around things we actually plan to continue, whether that be our children’s reading program, some of the computer support from the computer lab or student support services. Those things we will continue whether they remain in that building or somewhere else on the base. They will be available,” said Mizell.
One of the library’s most popular programs allows patrons to check out the latest books. The library was able to do this through a lease program with book distributors that was much cheaper than purchasing the books. Patrons are not currently allowed to check out these books or any other materials, but partial service may return in the future.
“I’m actually looking at some options to where we could have a limited circulation, which would be that check out capability. What we would definitely lose is some subscriptions and refreshing the books. Many of our books and materials are leased, so we will have to return those because there is no longer funding to continue the lease program,” said Mizell.
Some services may remain, but the library’s employees will not. According to Mizell, three of the six employees were offered other positions on base but with lower pay, one left to stay home with a child and two were laid off.
“I don’t understand their reasoning,” said Barrett.
Kraushaar does not understand either, and she is concerned that money that could be used to keep library employees on the job is being spent in other areas, specifically on a recent concert.
On Sept. 15, the Lt. Dan Band, fronted by actor Gary Sinise who played Lt. Dan Taylor in Forrest Gump, played a free concert at Pres. George W. Bush Park on Moody Air Force Base. According to Mizell, the library is funded through an agreement with Air Combat Command, and money for the concert was from a different source.
“The funding used for that was actually our Morale, Welfare and Recreation Fund that we have on base. That money is money that all the airmen contribute to when they go to our non-appropriated fund locations like the Moody Field Club, the bowling center, the arts and craft store, the auto hobby shop and those types of businesses. That’s what generated the money for the Gary Sinise concert,” said Mizell.
But despite the clarification, Moody families who have come to rely on the base library are still uncertain about the future of what they see as a vital part of their community. A final plan for the library has yet to be formed.
“I believe we will have the final plan by the later part of next week. I envision that there will be a transition time. We may have to temporarily close down the library to get the inventory straight and then reopen it. It’ll all be heavily advertised. We’ll make sure to get that information out to the Moody community and our retired community,” said Mizell.