Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Peoria Public Library - A Look Back to 2001

Back in September, 2001, the recently departed Journal Star Editorial Board writer Shelley Epstein wrote a poignant series of articles about the sorry state of affairs of the Peoria Public Library System. I quote, “People who live in the Harrison Homes area are among the cities poorest. Yet the adults use this library, and the kids FLOCK there. Peorians can wring their hands over gang influences and children who don’t learn and parents who don’t care and how education should be reformed, or they can take notice and do the obvious: Finish the library. Good grief!”

Then more blah, blah, blah and Shelley finishes by “railing” at the City Council to give the Library Board at least $100,000.00 to refurbish and expand Harrison Library better known as the South Side Library.

So the Council did. Not only did they give them some money but they gave them $485,000.00. The Library Board also spent $80,000.00 on an elevator to the 2nd floor.

Fast forward to today. After the Library Board spent $100,000.00 of donated money to bring consultants in to study the Peoria Public Library Systems and run a successful referendum, I quote the Library Board: “Library facilities are inadequate on the south side of the city. It is a fact that library USAGE on the south side is POOR. However we believe this is largely due to the fact that inadequate resources are being spread among multiple SUBSTANDARD buildings. If the City of Peoria is going to provide all of its citizens with an EQUAL OPPORTUNITY to succeed, the south side will need an exceptional library. A state of the art facility of 30,000 square feet or more is recommended.”

Then, what would one expect consultants to say?

The Library Board goes on to say that the Harrison Library aka Southside Library will be CLOSED as well as Riverwest and an expanded 30,000 square foot plus “state of the art” facility will be located at Lincoln Library.

It was just 5 years ago that the city and library wasted $500,000.00 on a building sitting like a lone sentinel on the Southside with no future use anticipated. Good grief!

A new library Director being paid $100,000.00 plus and plus, comes into town a year ago and recommends hiring a consulting firm to sell the community and the City Council on taxing an already overtaxed city another $35,000,000.00. The “politician leaders” of this community quickly jumped on the band wagon – note they were all Republicans; LaHood, Leitch, and Risinger, the Caterpillar Foundation threw in $20,000.00, OSF $5000, ect – how could these “leaders” say no; since libraries are the fountain of knowledge being heavily used by the citizenry; why, it would make them look like they support ignorance.

Now the City Council may make a decision that will AGAIN make the public look ignorant if they buy into this artificially created hype.

I suggest the City Council take a hard look before they dump another unneeded burden on the City of Peoria Taxpayers. The Library Board and their consultants are trying to sell you another “bill of goods” for both the south side and the north side.

In the meantime, the gangs have been successful in closing the Boys and Girls Club on Grinnell and the Community Centers; think $150,000.00 plus, are an abject failure.

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