FOLEY – The city of Foley is offering to provide a new home for the Baldwin County Library Cooperative, which has been without a space to operate for several months.

The City Council voted Monday, March 6, to approve a lease that would allow Baldwin County to use about 1,000 square feet of space at the Foley Public Library without cost. The Baldwin County Commission is scheduled to discuss the plan at its next meeting March 20, according to county officials.

John Jackson, library director, said the agreement will be good for BCLC as well as libraries and patrons throughout Baldwin County.

“The Foley Library can provide stability for the cooperative,” Jackson said. “They’ve been without a home now for over six months. Staff members of the cooperative have been working out of their own homes without a building, without a meeting facility. I would say that it would be quite difficult to do what they do on a daily basis out of their home and I wouldn’t want to do what I do every day out of my home.”

Mayor Ralph Hellmich praised the work done by Jackson and city staff members in working out the agreement. He said the city and county have worked well together on many efforts.

“I think the most important part of this is the fact that it provides a very good working relationship with the county,” Hellmich said. “We have had a lot of partnerships with them in other endeavors and working with them in this situation, I think, leads to good relations. That will be a benefit to us in all areas.”

Jackson said the lease will also provide a location for library directors and staff members to meet. He said pandemic restrictions followed by the closing of the BCLC office prevented in-person meetings for several years.

“There’ve been very few face to face meetings in the past two or three years,” Jackson said. “If we can meet face to face, we can come to solutions to any sort of problems that we might have. A telephone call oftentimes doesn’t get the job done.”

He said the agreement will also provide a location for the cooperative’s courier service that moves books and other materials between libraries around Baldwin County.

“We want to ensure that the courier runs every week, and on time,” Jackson said. “It’s been doing so lately, but in the past several months, I’d say actually the past couple of years. There’s been a problem with the courier running on time.”

Jackson said the BCLC will not pay rent for the Foley space, but the city would not pay any of the expenses involved in the cooperative operating in the city library.

“We want to help provide them with the tools to do the job and it’s not going to cost us anything,” Jackson said. “They’re not going to pay us rent,, but we’re not going to pay for their expenses either. So I think it’s a benefit that works well for us. It works for BCLS. I think we can all be better because of it.”

Hellmich said the terms of the lease also allow the city or county to withdraw from the agreement at any time.

The cooperative’s office was located in the Baldwin County annex in Robertsdale for about 20 years. The BCLC moved to a leased building in Loxley in December 2021. In July, the County Commission voted to cancel that lease citing problems with the condition of the building. 

The cooperative operates a loan program between the 13 public libraries across Baldwin County. The BCLC has also operated a county Bookmobile program.