An article written by the Journal Star Editorial Board today reads "Strong libraries are a core public service, as important to communities as good roads, effective schools and adequate police protection." The word "adequate" caught my attention. The editors are right; we should have adequate libraries. We do have more than adequate public libraries in Peoria. So adequate that in fact the library board is planning to close the Southside Library, the one that they told the City Council in 2001 and 2002 that this library was "bursting at the seams". Now they say it is "underutilized" and will be closed. The new library built recently to serve RiverWest is so underutilized that it is also going to be closed.
Lakeview library is so underutilized, it has over 1000 linear feet of empty bookshelves. Lakeview is the only library that has self checkout machines that never were dependable and have been out of service going on four months. Peoria Public Library is probably the only city of this size in the United States that does not have self checkout service. Why is that important? Self checkout machines relieve employees to do dozens of other activities and allows the patron to more quickly exit the building.
Another approximately 1000 feet of linear shelf space is unused or seldom used reference books stored on valuable shelf space at all libraries. All reference books are on computer of which every library has an "adequate" number.
Of the 10,000 people who voted for the $35,000,000 library expansion, many told me they hadn't set foot in a library for years but the $100,000 spent on promoting the referendum convinced them there was a "great" need. Statistics indicate another large perentage of "yes" voters were NOT property taxpayers, from whom this $35 million will be extracted.
In "selling" this $35 million project the sellers did not mention the relatively new and underutilized Peoria Heights Library and the newly expanded Dunlap Library; both libraries open to all people who live anywhere and has a free Peoria Public library card.
As I did in 2001, I request the City Council to NOT dump $35,000,000 more spending when we already have more than "adequate" libraries in our commuity. Do not dump more taxes on the overtaxed property payers in the City of Peoria.
Most of the City Council members tell me that they seldom visit a public library. Only one took up my offer to visit any library and see for themselves. Eric Turner agreed by email. But he has never set a date. I suspect the $20,000 donated by the Caterpillar Foundation to conduct the survey may have some influence on Councilman Turner's vote. Too bad. My offer is still open.
"Keeping up with the Jones" has already robbed millions of dollars from taxpayers who could have spent that money with entities that PAY TAXES instead of giving it the enhancement spenders who say these expenditures will cause the city to grow when actually it has shrunk in population, quadrupled in square miles causing service costs to sky rocket and in return Peoria is being assessed record high property taxes.
Many of us are saying "Wake up Peoria" before you drive more and more people and businesses out of Peoria and bring back the slogan of yesteryear's of "last one out of Peoria, turn off the light". We are going to be left with tax collecting bodies building financial disasters like the RiverPlex and the $32 million dollar zoo and taxpaying entities are locating elsewhere.
Two major houses of learning, Barnes and Noble and Borders have a far larger choice of books to read and you can set in comfortable chairs, drink coffee and relax most all hours, seven days a week. Both are struggling financially. Note their falling stock prices. Most important, they offer a great literary service to this community and they both pay taxes, not collect and spend taxes.
Repeat of the RiverPlex that has never been able to even meet the principal and interest on their bonds. This expansion is all about more unsupervised computers in competition with those who sell computers, computer training and service.
The library should get it's own house in order before asking for more bricks and mortar (no working self-check-out machines, good grief) to please a few big egos.