Sunday, April 15, 2007

Library Referendum - Facts

“Bursting at the seams” is widely used as tactics to get voter to pass an Advisory Referendum to the City Council; to grant a substantial year after year raise to your property taxes. Saturday was a rather wet gloomy day so at 11:00 A.M. I took a trip to my favorite Library, Lakeview to check out a book written by Dr. Peter Senge. They didn’t have the book but the downtown location did. Of the 300 or so times I have visited this library in recent years, I never had to wait more than a few minutes for service or ever seen anyone waiting half as long to buy a movie ticket. Today, I said, on this gloomy day, I’ll find that line. Nope, no one waiting in line. I browsed, observed and talked to a City Councilperson who does use the public library and showed him the 900 plus feet of unused bookshelves. No one used the self-check out machines in 40 minutes but me. (Lakeview is the only Peoria Public Library to have them and they are great tools. when they work) I observed about 15 people come and go in the 40 minutes I was in the library and observed only 6 kids using the children’s section.

Drive to the Downtown Library, I’ll drive for several miles if I want something, and check out Dr. Senge’s books and see how big the crowd is there. Nope, no crowd, 6 men sleeping or slumped in chairs with nothing in front of them. Most of the computers were being used, but as usual, I only saw two people taking notes. I did see Rob Parks dart in and pick up a book. The rest of the computer users appeared to be “surfing”. I was directed to the second floor where I found Dr. Senge among what appeared to be a million seldom or never used books.

What prompted my search for Dr. Senge was an email stating that Dr. Peter Senge, author of the widely acclaimed “The Fifth Discipline” and one of the “worlds top management gurus” would be in town to be the keynote speaker for “Building a Healthy, Sustainable Community: Planet, Places, People”. It’s also listed in the events section of the JS today. His book was published in 1990 and first checked out of the downtown library in 1996. Since Nov. 2001, it had been checked out a total of 4 times until July, 2005. I was the first to check it out in almost two years. Dr. Senge’s 2nd book called “The Dance of Change” was first checked out in 1999 and only 5 times since then with the latest checkout April 24, 2004.


The out of town consultants brought in by the Library Board and it’s Director say in their “Proposed Strategic Plan” that “just over 40% of Peoria’s population is registered for a library card compared to 53% in Grand Rapids and 80% in Palatine. To offset this, the Peoria Public Library is going to have to reinvent what it is and what it does. New and updated facilities must be designed to ensure equitable access to library service throughout the entire city.”

We now have what appears to be a couple million books in the Peoria Public Library System plus a million or more available from other libraries thru the Library Alliance. (Not counting the 150,000 thousand books in our school systems and social agencies.) How will new buildings, a new design and a new floor plan, get people to read Dr. Senge, the Classics and books about the history of the Middle East (and don’t forget China) as Dist. 150 will soon start teaching Chinese to kids who haven’t yet mastered the English language?

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