Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Library Referendum - Fact and Fiction - Part Two

On 4/1/07, I received a letter apparently written by the Library Directors Staff and signed by Rep. Leitch and Senator Risinger asking support for the $35,000,000.00 Library Referendum that will be on your ballot on April 17, stating that “three sub-par south side libraries would be consolidated into one expanded Lincoln Library.” I previously received a recorded phone call from U.S. Rep. LaHood saying that the libraries needed more computer space because libraries were the only place where kids could go and use computers free. All three of our leading Republican politicians support the expenditure of $35 million dollars of property tax payer’s money. But then the Republicans are earning the reputation of the other “tax and spend” party. I can’t confirm but I believe Aaron is in support also.

On 3/04/06, Peoria Public School Superintendent Ken Hinton said he would like to incorporate city libraries in the two new schools planned at Harrison Homes. Hmmm.

The JS recently announced that 43 libraries in the Peoria area received funding for the new rage for teenagers called “Playaways”.and the Peoria Public Library was not one of the 43. How did Peoria miss this government handout?

On 9/26/2001, the JSEB wrote “Peorians can wring their hands over gang influences; they should finish the Harrison South Side Library. The JSEB thought they could finish the job for $100,000.00 Now six years and $450,000.00 plus of taxpayers money, our new Library Director says this Library is “underutilized” and will be consolidated with Lincoln Library, a good one and a half mile away. The JS also wrote on 9/10/01, “Still, it seems the (existing) Peoria Public Library gives readers access to books they need and want.”

On 9/10/01 the JSEB wrote “The library does some things poorly. The downtown library is not open on Saturdays and Sundays and the Lakeview Library is not open on Sunday.” (The downtown library is now open on Saturdays and the Lakeview Library is open on Sundays. The Lincoln Library is not open on Sundays and the Harrison Library is not open on either Saturday or Sunday.)

At one time, Peoria City offered the library good used computers but the library said they did not fit the library system. A Councilman told me the FBI did accept the computers, refurbished them and used them. I believe any computer that works would be better than the three computers down for months at Harrison and the one computer down today at Lincoln.

On 2/2002, the JS reported that the Peoria Public Library had hired a consultant to make an independent study of the libraries needs. He evidently recommended the North Allen Road site for $6.9 million including land, building and furnishing.

On 11/15/05, the JS reported that $69,925.00 would be paid for a NEW study of library needs but no public funds would be used in that study. The JS did note that “$65,000.00 would buy a lot of books.”

On 3/22/07 an article in the WSJ read “Of all the places you’ll go, is the library still one of them?” The article continues “Kids turn to Google if they want to research something. The library is more removed from their lives, says a retired librarian in Albuquerque. It’s a last ditch place to go if they need s to find something out. Many people could answer a lot of questions they ask librarians in person now, but could do it themselves online in seconds.” Another librarian says she “spends most of her time telling patrons to pull up their pants, stop cracking their gum and signing them up for computers in which they idle away their time on Yahoo and occasionally some porn site.”
(Saw it myself today right here in Peoria where everything "plays" even in our libraries on the taxpayers dole.)

On 3/22/07, the WSJ reported that Borders is reducing its numbers of CD's as more people are using the web. It also plans to sell or close almost half of its Waldenbooks stores (Peoria has one at Northwoods Mall) and closing forty Border stores in Europe. Barnes and Noble is attempting to woo teenagers to an Allen, Texas downtown library by devoting one room strictly to teenagers. The article points out that libraries are going from work and learning centers to leisure and entertainment centers. Another article states that Borders could be a takeover target by Baarnes and Noble.

The National Endowment for Arts reported a few years ago that “For the first time in modern history, less than half the adult population now read literature. The decline will not be reversed until there is a culture restoration and than will not be easy to do.

On 3/27/07, a Peoria Public Library Trustee said “As long as equalized assessed valuation continues to grow at 4% a year in Peoria, things would be fine.” Don't bet on it. Many of my friends and constituents have told me that if property taxes continue to rise rapidly in Peoria, they will seek a different place to live.

An article by John Miller of the Olin Foundation, says that if public libraries continue to compete with the web, he envisions these libraries to be: “welfare programs for the middles class people who would rather borrow Nelson DeMille’s newest potboiler that spend a few dollars for it at Walmart.”

It is pointed out that at the Fairfax, Va. County Public Library, classic books like “For Whom the Bells Toll” and “Doctor Faustus” have not been checked out in two years. Some Classic books at Peoria Libraries have never been checked out, including “War and Peace” yet these classics look impressive and take much shelf space.

The Library Alliance with offices in Tazewell County along Hwy. 74, coordinates book distribution between many libraries in a wide area. That means any library card is good at any participating library, and to my knowledge, they all participate including Peoria Heights and Dunlap. Incidentally, Peoria Heights Library, Peoria Downtown Library and Dunlap use all of the seven high shelves in a stack. Lakeview only uses five which is one of the reasons they have 900 linear feet of unused bookshelves. These other libraries, some in the same system, use “Kik steps” to sit on or stand on. Lakeview says these “Kik steps” are too dangerous and they don’t use them.

“Bursting at the seams, underutilized, more computers, more meeting rooms, redesign, new buildings, ect.” is the classic language of people in charge who want something new and that costs a lot of property tax payer dollars. We’ve heard that same story in Peoria before and everyone of these low priority projects has fallen short of their hype, some as I print this and some, in the not too distant future. I am willing to visit any library for first hand observation with any of you who honestly believes we need to raise another "just" $35 million because our libraries are not properly serving our stagnant growth populace.

Do I think the community should support some extra money for Peoria Public Libraries? Not without more justification than given for this large an expenditure and not without a better plan than this $35,000,000.00 “slush fund”.

I certainly do not oppose the referendum. I want the voter who seldom goes to libraries to vote on facts, not on hype and sentiment.

This concludes Part 2 with one or two more parts to follow tomorrow. This is not a new project for me. I have been following the libraries sytems performance for quite a number of years.


John W. said...

As a student growing up on the southside during the sixites I would visit Lincoln branch library for school projects and homework after school or dinner. Even during those days there were seldom more than half a dozen or so in the building counting the librarians.

Placing such a large investment in this library system is similar to making an investment in a newspaper. I was a frequent visitor to the Peoria library system throughtout my adolescent and adult life. Then along came the early 1990's and the internet. I seldom visit the library now and usually only when I know that the information I want is in a book or document that cannot be accessed on the internet.

I think some things could and may need upgrading in our library system but not at such a steep expense. It just seems so unrealistic at this time. Maybe I'm missing something that some visionary foresees but I can't support such an expenditure of capital.

John said...

I've never found those kik steps to be unsafe. I remember using them in my elementary school library when I was a kid.