A new member of the East Baton Rouge Parish Library Board of Control is raising questions about why the agency has budgeted $94,000 for a high-tech display and educational tool—an Omniglobe—planned for the under-construction downtown library.
Chance Wilson, appointed to the board in May, says he was caught off guard during his first meeting in June to learn that the board—which OK’d the budget request in 2018 but has yet to buy it—was planning to spend that much money on something he acknowledges is cool, but is more of a luxury than a necessity.
That’s particularly the case, he believes, because the nearby Louisiana Art and Science Museum, just two blocks from the new library, also has an Omniglobe, which was recently underwritten for the museum by Lamar.
“That’s the crazy thing,” says Wilson. “The LASM already has one. If the board is spending this kind of money on a globe, imagine what else they’re wasting money on.”
Wilson emailed his colleagues on the board last week, asking them to justify the expenditure. In a response, Library Director Spencer Watts explained the Omniglobe is an engaging, interactive tool that covers things such as tree coverage, population density, sea ice coverage, wetlands mapping, tsunami models. ocean currents, and astronomy that will complement the library’s books and other resources.
Watts adds that while there is some overlap between the populations served by the LASM and the downtown library, there are also key differences.
What’s more, Watts tells Daily Report the $94,000 budgeted for the Omniglobe is likely not what the library board will spend on it. In fact, he now estimates the board will spend about half that much on the display, as the board has begun exploring different models and configuration options as well as a competing product.
“There wasn’t a competing product on the market when we budgeted for this,” Watts says. “There are several ways we are now aware of to bring the cost down so we are exploring all of those.”
Though the board does not need to vote on the expenditure, as it was already appropriated in the 2019 capital budget, board members will discuss the issue at their monthly meeting Thursday since Wilson has called attention to it.
“I’m hoping if people hear about this and get interested, they may reach out and contact the library board,” he says. “It’s not too late, and we could use the money for something else.”