The Dubuque County library system is gaining the ability to set its own funding level, and the library board of trustees and county supervisors discussed the changes in a work session Monday.

Currently, the library system receives just over half of its maximum allowed under the county’s rural services levy, according to Dubuque County library director Michael Wright. “The library has been treated as a department of Dubuque County for a long time,” said Wright.

Last summer, Dubuque County attorney Ralph Potter issued an opinion that informed the trustees that, by code, the Dubuque County Library system is a library district rather than a department of the county, and that the library system needs to start functioning autonomously.

As an autonomous district, the library’s board of trustees can request whatever level of funding deemed necessary, up to the maximum levy allowed by law.

However, because the library system has been functioning as part of the county, it currently receives help from the county with different services such as insurance and going forward, they will need to sort out what the county can provide.

The library board of trustees submitted a budget on Monday to the Dubuque County board of supervisors that includes an increase of about $90,000 from last year’s budget for a total of $817,324. According to Wright it is a step toward better funding, but it will be a number of years before the libraries funding level will be adequate, he said.

“I think it’s really a positive thing for the library, and for the patrons,” said Wright of the change to functioning as a separate district. “It was a very productive meeting.”