Congratulations to the Faulkner County Quorum Court for adopting Judge Kris Kendrick’s Resolution 21-05, to declare Faulkner County a pro-life county. Here are some reasons for which Faulkner County residents may thank you:
Thank you for leaving out part of Amendment 68 to the Arkansas Constitution, so that it would conveniently conform to the Resolution’s extreme definition of fetus protection.
Thank you for including a portion of a Roman Catholic Church doctrine in Section 1 of the Resolution.
Thank you for showing no concern for victims of rape or incest.
Thank you for thinking about building monuments to aborted fetuses as a rationale for adopting the Resolution.
Thank you for encouraging public schools to violate the separation of church and state by promoting the sanctity of human life.
Thank you for making it more difficult for the county to attract new businesses.
Thank you for alienating a large segment of county residents.
Bruce Plopper, Conway
Exactly eight months after I sent a letter to Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero arguing that library staff are essential workers, I sat in my office in the 12th hour of my workday listening to the Quorum Court discussion of a retroactive pay boost to essential workers. Federal funds sent to the county could reward county employees who showed up for 3,000+ hours in the middle of a global pandemic that killed 2,331 Americans that same day. So many great points were made. They are thoughtful people juggling a huge number of variables. Let me add a few.
Last year we provided more than $3 in services to Faulkner County for every dollar we spent, and that was a "slow" year for us. The library has more traffic than any other county agency. We had 125,000 visits last year and may hit 100,000 for this year before October arrives.
A staff of just 39 people receive those thousands. Sixty percent of them earn minimum wage. Even giving them that $1.80 for working with the public day in and day out, they still would not be earning a living wage. Library staff are the worst paid employees in the county. We compete with White County to have the worst paid library staff among the Class 6 counties, though we are the third largest public library system in Arkansas. We staff six locations across the county and are open to the public 248 hours per week.
We are erasing the barriers between school and public libraries and our Lifelong Learning program has put library cards into the hands of 3,800 students across Vilonia, Conway Christian, and the middle schools of Conway Public. This year we are pursuing Mayflower High School, St. Joe's, Greenbrier and Mount Vernon. Library cards will make a collection of 1,260,000 items available, as well as resources to help kids do research or prepare for the examinations that will unlock the job or education they dream of.
During the pandemic specifically we began with literally grinding out homework packets until the schools developed the plans for Chromebooks. We loaned out hotspots 5,400 times since the lockdown began. Many nights there are vehicles in our parking lots when we close, because our WiFi is the reason 100% of Faulkner county "has access to" high-speed internet. We have provided computer services 14,300 times since the lockdown began and instituted mobile printing services for those unwilling or unable to come inside. This is because the library is vital to many a small business, many homeschoolers and many distant education students. It is no exaggeration to say people's livelihoods depend on our computers, our internet, our printers and our professional assistance when you struggle with those things. Every Friday a host of home health care providers fax off their timesheets from our libraries. People bring us paperwork saying they are COVID-positive to fax to their employers. Libraries are an economic engine of this county every day. Libraries are boosting test scores in this county every day.
My staff spent months of the lockdown modernizing. We put RFID tags in hundreds of thousands of items in our physical collection in order to speed up if not outright automate lending. We switched to new operational systems to cut costs by 50% and learned how to do our jobs all over again.
The governor saw the merit of all this, and we all got classified 1B. Most of the staff were getting shots in March. We were essential then, and we are essential now.
John McGraw, Faulkner County Library System director