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Friday, November 12, 2010

Our library defeat is a national story - from Library Journal

Troy Public Library's Future Looks Bleak

By Michael Kelley Nov 4, 2010 

One disappointing result of Tuesday's election was the defeat in Troy, MI, of four separate proposals that, if approved, would have avoided the closing of the city's library.
Without another source of funding, the 51-year-old library will close June 30, 2011.
The first proposal, a ten-year, 0.9885-millage failed by only 675 votes, 15,736 to 15,071. The other three measures were defeated by large margins.
"Being director of Troy was my ultimate professional goal," Cathleen Russ, the library's director, toldLJ, "because it was my library when I was growing up. I just feel so bad that the place I love so much is going to close."
Funds unlikely to be found
Mayor Louise Schilling told the Detroit Free Press that it was unlikely the city council would reconsider funding the library.
"Council's already made a decision with regards to budgetary funds," she said. "We've already looked very carefully at all of the funds."
Troy Citizens United, an antitax group that had campaigned against the ballot measures, is petitioning the city to keep the library open by reallocating money in the budget.
"We can have a library with no new taxes, and that's what the petition drive is doing," group spokeswoman Deborah DeBacker told the Free Press. [Sharon's note: However, Howrylak is now acknowledging they may need a new, half-mill tax increase, so the very basis of their campaign, of their campaign's NAME was false!]

Russ, however, does not have much time to wait for a last-minute solution since she must have time to wind down operations. The disposition of the collection will have to be determined; contracts with vendors broken.
"Quite honestly, if there is no money in the budget, does the library actually close at the end of March?" she asked. "I can't imagine checking books out after June 15, because no one will be here to accept them when they are returned."
The library had a huge layoff in June 2010 that cut the staff by 30 percent, and it is now down to 63 employees: six FTES and 57 part-timers, including three full-time librarians and 14 part-timers.
The operating budget was slashed from $3.6 million last year to $2.2 million, and the collections budget went from $775,000 to $425,000.
As LJ has reported, the city of 80,000 has suffered a double whammy from the economic downturn in the Detroit area, as well as the defeat in February of a property tax millage that would have benefited all city agencies, including the library.
A vote against a plan, not the library
City Councilor Martin Howrylak told the Daily Tribune the election result was not a rejection of the library.
"The vote doesn't mean the people don't want a library, they just didn't like the plan that was presented to the voters," he told the Tribune.
If the library does close, the only alternative for Troy residents will be to buy a library card from a neighboring community at a cost of $75 to $200, Russ said.
However, the rest of the news around Michigan was not so discouraging for library advocates: nine out of ten other library millages passed:
Belleville: 0.7 for 12 years; Beverly Hills: less than one mill; Dexter: 0.6925 for six years; Eastpointe: 0.1135 for five years; Harper Woods: 1.0 for seven years; Inkster: 2.0 for ten years; Milford: 0.38 for ten years; Northville: 0.2 for five years; and Ypsilanti: 0.38 in perpetuity.
The only measure to fail, besides Troy, was in Bloomfield Hills.

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