Thursday, July 05, 2007

Library Referendum - Facts Summarized

The Peoria Public Library system is cluttered with books, never read or seldom read. Example: Lakeview Library has 29 thick books called the Encyclopedia American and dated 12/2000. In 7 years the total times checked out is 11. The New Book of Knowledge, dated 2001, consists of a series of 21 thick books, that been checked out a total of 10 times. These are reference books labeled to be checked out by any card holder.(Most reference books can not be checked out; however every reference book in any Peoria Public Library is online and easy to use even when in the library.)

.A series of thick books at the Downtown Library dated 1997 have never been checked out. I described the series in one of my “blogs” on the use of libraries. Peoria’s newest public library has 51 biographies with total a total of 3 checkouts since the branch opened. This new building is also scheduled to close; the question is, why was it ever opened?

I ask that you accompany me on a trip to all libraries and I will show you everything I list as facts in this large request for money for expansion and “redecorating”. One council member agreed to take a tour with me because he said he “needed to learn more about libraries”. He changed his mind perhaps when he discovered who the organizations were that donated the $100,000.00 to the referendum. Pressure from “special interests groups” should be avoided by all elected officials. Decisions should be made on facts.

All statistics show that the reading of books in hard or soft covers is decreasing. An article in The Economist reads “With sales of books declining, sales of mobile-phone novels have jumped and are growing fast. One best selling book has 160,000 downloads a day.” The whole concept of the use or non-use of library books is being changed by technology yet books take up most of the space in all public libraries. Yet you are being asked to tax property owners for more thousands of square feet of unneeded space.

Here are facts that should considered by the City Council before approving any amount close to $35,000,000,000.00 requested by the Peoria Library Board. This is a lengthy statement well worth reading. These facts are the closest to the truths never revealed in the recent $100,000.00 referendum. A referendum that had no organized opposition because most people thought common sense would prevail. (The turnout was less than 22% of all registered voters.)

How could our local politicians and leaders NOT turn down a request to support libraries? If they didn’t support the referendum, they would be accused of supporting ignorance. How could they refuse to sign a document (written for them by the Library Consultants) without feeling the “guilt” of supporting ignorance?

This was a major promotion with no organized opposition headed up by a professional fund raiser. Elected officials are supposed to listen to all informed people and are not supposed to let “special interest” groups determine their actions. Elected officials are supposed to inform themselves especially when raising already high taxes.

Consider what is now on the taxpayer’s plate, the Renaissance Center, the Civic Center expansion, the RiverPlex that has never been able to meet the principal and interest on it’s original loan, Transport potential taxpayer supported development, expansion of TIF’s such as the two just approved by the council, more money for struggling School Dist. #150, rising pension costs, the Gateway Center, the new zoo and new infrastructure for the expanded zoo, inadequate emergency warning systems, tax abating incentives for businesses like Firefly, Globe Energy and many more to come, the possible need for another firehouse and a growing need for more safety officers on the street. The Chief said recently that he could use 25 more officers on the streets.

You are aware of the poor condition of many of our streets. Some of you support a new staffed and equipped firehouse.

On the horizon is the new museum, the Children’s Playhouse to occupy the current Park Headquarters, the need for new Park Headquarters, $120 million for new schools plus the redevelopment of downtown. Our history shows there will be requests for more taxes and more taxpayer supported projects coming in the future.

I attended a meeting last week where the establishment of an Opportunity Center and Innovation Center (one building alone would need to be 30,000 sq.ft.) was recommended. These facilities would be taxpayer and donor supported.

Most people believe that their property taxes are too high now. People with fixed incomes who own older homes do not see their property values rising as taxes rise.

Librarians love books so much they do not want to take them off the shelves. That is the major reason they claim Peoria’s Public libraries are “bursting at the seams” and need more space for more books. Visit these libraries and you will find thousands of books that have never or seldom been read, taking up shelf space. You will find books as new as 2004 on sale tables for as low as a quarter.

Remember the poignant article titled “Fairy Tale Ending” in the JS on April 18/07? In the rows pictured, out of 110 children’s books, 8 had never been checked out, only 5 had been checked out in 2007 and only 21 had been checked out in all of 2006.

An article in the JS dated 5/29/07 “Books not Selling? Burn them – Used bookstore owner sets fire to collection to protest declining support of the printed word.” The article states the owner tried to give 50,000 books away to libraries or thrift shops. None would accept them because they said they have no more space for books. The article points out that a study in 2002 by the National Endowment for the Arts reported that adults reading for pleasure were down almost 57% from 1982.

Look at the history of the Library Board. The 2001 Library Board asked the City Council for $6.9 million to buy land and build a North Side library off Rte. 6 on Allen road. This request was denied; then the council was asked to let the library at least buy the land. The Council denied this also. The council did grant the library money to modernize Harrison Homes Library for approx. $285,000.00. A year later, library board members appeared before the council and asked for $200,000.00 more to refurbish the 2nd floor of Harrison because the first floor was overcrowded. The Council granted the money and $200,000.00 plus was spent on the 2nd floor. This amount included an $80,000.00 elevator that can be operated by key only. (On 12/07/01 the Journal Star reported the following: “In an unanimous vote, the council promised to spend $400,000.00 to buy computers, double the size of the Harrison Library, remodel Lakeview and boost salaries by $200,000.00 and open the Downtown Library on Sundays.”

The Downtown Library is not open on Sundays. It is not open because of the lack of usage on Sunday’s which library staff knew before they were granted the extra money.

At the time of the reconstruction of Harrison Library, it was common knowledge that many of the residents at Harrison Homes were going to be relocated in 4 or 5 years. Today, all that is on the 2nd floor are 4 computers, 3 that haven’t worked in months, a few chairs and tables, a small storage area and rest rooms. There are also rest rooms on the first floor. This locked elevator to the 2nd floor is monitored by closed circuit TV.

The Harrison Library is scheduled to be closed and torn down because the Library board says it is now “underutilized”.

“Bursting at the seams” is the term used to describe Lakeview Library. Yet the library has over 900 linear feet of empty shelves (the length of three football fields).

Why, because Lakeview is the only Library in the entire county that does not use the top and bottom shelves of their stacks. Use these shelves like other libraries do and take down a couple of stacks and clear more space for computers and office space. Lakeview (as well as all public libraries) have 10’s of thousands of romance books that can be bought at Library book sales, Lakeview Museum book sales or any used book store for as little as a quarter.

Why spend $35 million dollars on a rapidly changing system in a community where kids read fewer books and are being taught to view and gather information online. If the demand for computers and computer space is rising, create space by removing thousands of unread or unused books. There are plenty of small empty buildings in Peoria that can accommodate computers and meeting rooms. If the demand for computers for learning is so great, use the ones sitting idle most of the time in the dozens of public school in Peoria. In fact with the addition of 20 new computers at Manual available from 3-8 daily, there are over 200 free computers for use now in the community. Bradley University Library is open to the public and has free computer time for the public. Computers are now on the market for as low as $179.00. 3 billion $100.00 computers that will cost less than a pair of Nike shoes are on the horizon.

Computer usage at all Peoria Public Libraries is unsupervised. Close observation will show that many users are surfing, playing games, watching porn, learning how to create their own Social Security Card, learning how to make a bomb, in fact, they can look up and watch most anything they wish to watch. If a patron wants to use a computer but doesn’t know how to use one, the library does not teach them

Pornography has been observed on some of the monitor screens at the downtown location being viewed by as many as four people. Machines can be filtered but smart people of all ages often know how to bypass filters.

Filtering was a subject of an article in the JS on 5/14/07. The headline was “Should Library Web filters be shelved? Some librarians staged a day of protest against legislation requiring porn blockers.”

Patrons may bring in their own porn discs to use at Peoria Public Libraries and employees say they can tell them not to but cannot stop them nor do they have time to observe how the computers are being used.

Reference books, of which there are many hundreds, are hardly touched. All these reference books taking up space in the Peoria Public Libraries are on line and computers are in the library. Why take up the same space in every library for 10’s of sets of the same reference books when look-ups are much faster on a computer?

As one across the river elected official said recently, “Let Peoria taxpayers build all these things and we will come over and use them.” Thanks, Peoria. The library referendum in his community (East Peoria) was missing the “hype” and it failed.

The Peoria Public Library System is a Tax COLLECTOR, not a Tax PAYER. If $35,000,000.00 is justified because people like libraries to browse and not necessarily check out books, they can go to TAX PAYING bookstores such as Barnes and Noble and Borders. They can browse all day for free. Both locations can be reached by tax supported buses. They can also sit in easy chairs and drink coffee but for the food and coffee THEY will have to pay. I am a frequent visitor and supporter of public libraries but do not believe in supporting them in competition with private enterprise. Private enterprise is where the taxes dollars come from; to support free libraries.

About 4 years ago, 2 self-check out machines were installed at Lakeview. (Most libraries of any size across the country have them) These machines didn’t work with any consistency from date of installation. So most patrons ignore the self check out machines and go to the circulation desk where library employees must take the time to scan and date stamp each book while the self-check out machines mostly stand idle.

These machines were installed only at Lakeview because there isn’t enough activity to warrant the expense at any other library.

The library board claims to have had complaints of patrons waiting too long to check out a book and complaints of not enough parking space. Neither complaint is valid, go visit unannounced. Compare with a grocery store where you PAY for what you remove from the store; the walk and wait at any library location has no comparison. The maximum anyone could walk after parking is less than 150 feet. There would be considerably less wait time if people would use the electronic self-checkout machines. It is usually the patrons decision just like at the grocery store, to use the machines or wait to be waited on by a clerk.

One station at the new (2003) Lakeview Circulation Desk is used to display information. Claims are made that the desk intrudes into the children’s section. It doesn’t, but if it did, that is the fault of the design, not lack of space.

In December, 2000, none of the Peoria Public Libraries were using magnetic cards. All other libraries in the area were. Now the system is using magnetic cards that are accepted by all public libraries serviced by the Alliance Library System including Dunlap, Peoria Heights, Bartonville, Chillicothe, Princeville and other local libraries. You can check out a book with a Peoria Library card and if they don’t have the title you wish in stock, they can order it from another library in the Library Alliance System.

The tax supported Alliance also has approximately 60,000 titles of talking books in stock to send to any library requesting one. Talking books are going out as digital is coming in. A library in another county said “We have stopped ordering them.”

Complaints are made about not enough meeting space at Lakeview yet it has 3 meeting rooms that are open at least 50 hours a week. Fifty hours a week isn’t enough for children’s programs? Any overflow of any of the programs are or could be conducted by none tax supported entities such as most churches, Carver Center, Proctor Center, the two Boys and Girls Clubs, Scout meeting rooms, Commonplace, Southside Mission, Friendship House, ect. School libraries that close at approximately 3:00 have computers and books (250,000) for daytime use. They could be open after school and all summer.

All public school libraries in Peoria have computers; the difference is that teachers teach kids how to use computers and monitor their screens.

The library board says it would like to establish teen centers yet the community abounds with teen centers. All schools offer underutilized extra curricular activities. More extra-curricular programs could be offered if there was the demand. All schools have lots of empty space after 2:30, the community has dozens of places that have or could have “teen centers”. Most churches have youth centers, park districts have social centers as do Proctor, Carver, the RiverPlex, are all free to kids, especially those labeled as “poverty and below”.

The “community centers” at Manual and Trewyn close their libraries at 2:30 P.M., sometimes a half hour later. Why aren’t school libraries designated as “community centers” if libraries are so popular?

The position of Assistant Librarian in Dist. # 150 high schools was eliminated turning librarians into part time clerical people. Why are K-8 schools not required to have certified librarians if the demand for library usage is so great? If the demand was there, the schools would be obligated to fill these positions.

If there is such a demand for books, why are all the Blaine Sumner Library books still on the shelves one academic year after the school was closed?

If school libraries do not have heavy usage, why would there be a growing demand in our public libraries?

The Public Library system has a “sophisticated” computer system. Remember when Peoria Public Library turned down the cities used computer because they were not compatible with the library system? I was told by a council person the these rejected computers were then accepted by the FBI.

None of the Peoria Public Libraries carry Playaway audio books. These audio books were originally made available to local public libraries by grant application. Playaway machines are the size of a deck of cards and could become widely used by those who haven’t time to read a book or by those who multitask. They would also reduce shelf space as libraries often have multiple copies of most books. Playaways are not the same at all as “books on tapes” that require a device in which you need to insert the tapes. Playaway operates by battery.

An article printed in the Journal Star on 3/29/07 wrote that Playaways “Turn your favorite novels into tiny portable digital audio files that libraries can’t keep on their shelves.” 16 libraries in the Peoria area have the Playaway books. Included in the many libraries that own and check out the Playaway books are Chillicothe, Morton, Alpha Park, Tremont, Richwoods, Bradley University Library, etc. Morton has 40 titles and has 24 out on loan. Fondulac Library has 58 titles. Richwoods High School has active checkouts of books from their extensive library, including Playaway.

Absent from the libraries using Playaway Books was the Peoria Public Library System who said “they were considering them”.

Part of the 35 million dollars would be used at McClure YET that library was considered for CLOSING as underused in the approximate year of 2000. Consideration was given that that the Downtown Library was more cost than benefit to the community. Now a large part of the 35 million dollars would be used to redesign the inside and outside of the building. Chairs described as soft and comfortable are to be purchased for patrons of the library including many so called “street people”. Sales of food and beverages are being considered. That would be in direct competition with the private sectors.

The major booksellers in Peoria are Barnes and Noble and Borders who offer amenities such as comfortable seating allow “non-buyers” to spend a whole day browsing, reading, asking for technical help, ect. They have a much larger selection of materials of all types are FREE as long as these materials do not leave the building. They offer food and beverages for sale along with hundreds of other items.

All libraries, public and private, new and used, in Peoria and Peoria Heights are easily accessible by bus and by bike. Parking is not a problem at any library and the parking is free except at the Downtown Library.

On 10/21/01, the Journal Star quoted a library trustee as saying “there was no room to expand at Lakeview.” Six years later, the library board says there is space to expand Lakeview?? Also, why would the library board expand Lakeview before weighing the effect of a new north side location would have on reducing the “overcrowding” at Lakeview?

If Lakeview needs more office space, knock out a wall, retire unread books or utilize existing shelf space (900 feet unused) better to create more office space and more computer space.

The major part of the 36 million dollars, $11 million would be spent on a new Northsiders location possibly along Pioneer Parkway. Pioneer Parkway is largely a commercial area and library studies show that libraries are best suited to be located in pedestrian friendly and “people moving” areas. Lakeview, for example is in the same “people moving” sector as the Theatre, Lakeview Museum, the Girl Scout Headquarters and Owens Center. There are no user friendly sidewalks for bicycles along either side of Pioneer Parkway; not very “people moving friendly”.

The K’s Merchandise empty building has tax collecting potential.

Lakeview is 3 1/2 miles from the Downtown Library and 7 miles from the Dunlap Library. A drive of 3 ½ miles will take you to any library in the area. People who live on the far north side travel at least 7 miles to access downtown Peoria and many do it on a daily basis. People can’t drive 3 ½ miles to access a FREE library?

All area libraries accept Peoria Public Library cards at no cost. Books can be returned to ANY Library system served by the Alliance.

None of the four high school principals and four head librarians was consulted by the Peoria Public Library leaders to ask for their input as to the future needs on kids in schools now and their potential needs in the future. Mary Ward, Director of Library Services and Head Librarian for all of District #150 libraries was not consulted as to what the current and future needs are for kids still in school. Why not? The average age of all the books in Dist. #150 is 1979 and a large number of books will soon go to a recycling center.

Superintendent Hinton has stated that he prefers to have the libraries in the new schools as they are being built. Richwoods has the library adjacent to their study hall so students can use the library as they do their homework. .Kitty Poe, Executive Director of the Alliance Library System states that “the most dependable predictor of high school achievement is a SCHOOL library supported by a trained librarian.” (JS, 12/22/04)

There are an estimated combined 2 million books in Peoria Public Libraries and Peoria Public schools. Almost all social agencies such as Common Place and most churches have books. All can be checked out or read on site. Reading on site is permitted at all books stores, another million books, new and used are available for as little as a quarter.

An article dated May 10th, 1999, in Time Magazine titled “Raising Kids ONLINE” indicated 8 years ago how the newer generation will be accessing information by electronic means.

An article on May 12, 2007, is titled “Short is Good”, talks about condensed smaller books – and the virtue of brevity.”

Bulky “talking books” will be phased out. Fondulac Library (their “no hype” referendum for expansion failed) said they no longer order these bulky books. Digital is here now as is online. Google claims to have every book ever written available on the net.

All indications are that libraries will need less space rather than more.

Staunch library supporters have compared Peoria’s present libraries with cities like suburbs of Chicago that have totally different demographics than Peoria. Many want something new. Studies shows elected officials find it hard to say no to special interest groups.

A leading realtor asks if Peoria Governments know that they are driving people out of the city with, among other non-buying points, rising property taxes.

Comparisons like “libraries are visited more than the Civic Center, Bradley Basketball, etc.” combined, are made. These “sound” like impressive figure but free public libraries are open more than 250 hours per WEEK all year round and a taxpayer supported book-mobile also takes the library to the reader.

Here are some facts council people should know. These facts should be at the Head Librarian’s fingertips on their computerized systems:

What is the total number of Peoria Public Library cardholders?

Of this total, what was the number of actual users in 2006? Example, I probably used the libraries 60 times in 2006. I would be one user, my wife; two users and so on.

Break out above number of all cardholders who live in the Harrison area, Lincoln area, RiverWest area, Downtown area, McClure and Lakeview.

What is the total number of all hard and cover adult section books ad the total number of all children’s books in all Peoria Public Libraries combined?

What is the above breakout by library?

What is the total Number of all soft cover books in system?

What is the breakout by library?

What is the total number of DVD’s, Books on Tape, CD’s, etc.?

What is the breakout by library?

Total number of different titled adult periodicals, magazines, newspapers, in whichever way they are inventoried?

What is the breakout by library?

What is the total number of titles in all libraries combined in all categories? (For example one public library has 8 books of the same title; using Kite Runner as an example. This would be one title).

What is the total number of common use (adult or children) reference books of all kinds by description; example, World Book, Automotive, Air Craft, Dictionaries, Thesaurus, cross reference books, etc?

Why is additional space needed for reference questions asked? How are these requests counted?

What is the total number of all hard cover books, adult and children checked out in a 12 month period?

What is the total number of soft cover books, adult and children, checked OUT in last 12 months?

What is the total number of adult DVD’s, books on Tape, Digital books etc. checked out in the last 12 month period?

What is the total number of all of the above by category and by library location in the past 12 months?

What determines shelf life of an item? There are thousands of items on the shelves that have never been checked out. At one library I found a book on the shelf that had not been checked out in 18 years.

Other than books the libraries put up for sale, what is the total number of items, children and adult, of all categories are not on public display and where are they stored?

Rather than making librarians into clerks to accept quarters, why not just give seldom read books away to save space?

What is the breakout of all of the above adult materials by library location and by category: business books, biographies, reference books, history books, fiction books including mystery books, romance books (as separate from fiction such as written by Tony Hillerman, etc.), homemaking, cooking, gardening, construction manuals, mechanical books, do it yourself books; books describing how to repair or build a structure, personality development, personal development books, etc.?

What is the breakout of these categories in children’s sections of each library?

What is the breakout of same categories in each library for children’s DVD’s, CD’s and Books on Tape, etc.?

Same for children’s periodicals, magazines, newspapers, etc.

Breakout of all other categories available in the children’s section.

All this information should be quickly available on the library systems computers


Brad Carter said...

My wife took two of my sons to the Pekin library while my third son was at tutoring a few weeks ago. My wife and kids came across a table overflowing with books which were marked FREE. Each of my boys picked a book out and made sure with the librarian that their choices were not mistakenly put on the table. My nine year old had picked up one book in the Time Life Encyclopedia of the Civil War series. He was interested in a couple of the others in the series so he asked if he could pick out another one. She replied, take the whole set! We now have the entire 20+ volume set.

BucketHead said...

Nice post! However you can forget it. The new 35 million dollar debacle is comming! Taxpayers lose again.

Oleg Boyarsky said...

I completely agree that a fresh approach to running libraries is definately needed. Being a leading vendor to libraries across the country, we see a number of examples where the "same-old-same-old" approach doesn't work anymore. People demand automation, less staff and yet more/better resources at the library. (For example, one of our systems augments staff by allowing self-service of highly circulating music CDs, even when the library is closed!)

Bottom line, with the advent of technology, expanding Internet universe, and great demands on people's free time, libraries and people that oversee library development need to adjust and face realities.

Best regards,

Oleg Boyarsky
President / CEO
Library Automation Technologies

Anonymous said...

There you go again Merle, you old pervert finding ways to talk about your favorite obession--porn.

This voter approved renovation and expansion will bring new management as well and business-like efficiencies.

Merle needs to run for city council since that seems to be his passion. He isn't doing anything on the county board while he sits in the dunce chair (i mean the powerless, figurehead vice chair).

The same percentage of voters turned out out to elect their council members, so whatever the percent was, council members have no more legitimacy than does the refrendum they unanimously voted to put on the ballot.

A tax increse itself is the strongest opponent in a referendum like this. If you say there was no organized opposition becasue you felt common sense would prevail, well once again you are proven wrong. Gosh your judgement sucks! 72% of the people of each council district are ready to mobilized again and vote out plenty of council members who voted to put the referendum on the ballot but may now be inclined not to accept the result they asked the people to give them. Are these council members shameless, cynical politicians who put the referendum on ballot thinking it would fail but now don't have the balls or decency to stand behind the people they asked for advice?

Watch, wait and learn 2 or 3 members who vote against the people's will on the libraries will lose their own re-elections next time.

Merle needs to get back to his exhaulted dunce box as the emasculated county board vice chair. He is in his last 16 months of that psuedo glory.

Watch, wait and learn, Merle is in his last term and his vice chair position isn't going to be much longer either.

Guess it's time to hijack another school bus or beat up on the boys and girls clubs of Peoria.

What a pathetic way to live your last years--just being a bully on everyone trying to make Peoira better place to live. Merle just keeps getting crankier and more negative all the time. Everyone in town refers to him as a nut.

Anonymous said...


Cal Skinner said...

Who gave the $100,000?

When was the referendum?

What were the results..for those of us who don't live in the Peoria area?