Odds stacked against libraries as cities feel pinch | detnews.com | The Detroit News

Highlights from the article:
“We can’t take these people on as refugees,” said Southfield library director Dave Ewick. “My heart goes out to Troy residents. But I can’t give them for free what my people are paying for — they need to realize how valuable a library is and pay for it.”

The Baldwin Public Library, which has served Birmingham for 104 years and maintains service contracts with Beverly Hills and Bingham Farms, will not offer any services to Troy residents, since a reciprocal relationship will no longer exist, according to its website.

“The residents of Birmingham have told us they don’t want us giving away services,” said Baldwin library director Doug Koschik. In Berkley, the board raised the nonresident library card fee to $125 from $50, effective April 1, to fall in line with other facilities and minimize the rush, officials said.

“We’re getting several calls every day from Troy residents,” Berkley library director Celia Morse said. “They’re clearly shopping around, and we don’t want to put ourselves in the position of being the bargain. … I’m not really in a position to handle a large influx of new users.”

A 2010 Harris Poll for the American Library Association found that 94 percent said libraries “improve the quality of life in a community.” Nearly two-thirds of adults had used their library in the past year, the report added.

My stance:
While I moved away from the suburbs six years ago, I must admit that I feel unplugged from the “suburban library world”; however, conducting library visits for graduate school, I have found libraries in the Thumb area of Michigan to be practically synonymous with community centers. Every week, I am visiting a rural library to study for class and observe my surroundings — utilization is not even a question or a doubt in this area. Patrons are always found browsing the stacks, perusing periodicals, and interloaning materials. Through observation, I have found it almost rare for a public computer to be unoccupied as many people are using the computers to search and apply for jobs, conduct research for a class paper, apply for assistance, download tax forms, research genealogy, and connect with friends/family.

How many library cards do I have? Two. Since I utilize Bad Axe Area District Library and its services at least once a week, I found it appropriate to apply for a card to “pay my way” like any citizen residing in that district. The difference: because I was a non-resident, I paid an annual “membership” fee. In all actuality, I will likely end up with more than two cards since I patronize multiple libraries across the area in order to study and observe.

One of the two classes I am taking this semester is “Library Administration and Management” and a recent assignment required me to reduce the operating budget of an academic or public library (my choice) by 25%. Putting it in those terms sounds simple, right? Sure. Taking a moment to imagine what the end-result would actually look like was a bit intimidating. Would quality be so low in which patrons would stop coming to the library? Possibly. What line item gets cut, frozen, or *gasp* eliminated? It was definitely a balancing act. (Thank you to Professor Robert Holley (lead) and to Beth Walker, my course instructor, for this practical and very real assignment.) 

Let’s face it: librarians are certainly not getting rich — beyond the salaries for staff, the library, itself, costs money to operate. Many of my readers are in the LIS field, but to those who aren’t, please take a moment to think about some the costs involved with operating a library: utilities (electricity for lights and to run computers for patrons), collection development (subscriptions to magazines, the best-seller that you want you to read, books on gardening, antique tractors), licenses for databases (the database used for genealogy research costs money), grounds maintenance (snow shoveling, etc), maintenance agreements for the OPACs (online public access catalog: what you use to look up materials), processing and cataloging costs to make new materials available to patrons (or fees paid to the cooperative/consortium to cover)…and let’s not forget the cost of internet that is always readily available for use. It simply adds up.

*deep breath*

Confession: I must admit that I had a very difficult time taking a stance on this issue because the issue itself contradicts a firm belief that I have held: access to all. My heart breaks for those who lost their library, but at the same time I am very much angry and disgusted by the lack of community support.

(A special thanks to Joy and Charli for sharing the article.)