Thursday, June 05, 2008

Peoria Public Libraries - Questions to the Library Board

The JS today asks the public how they would answer the 49 questions posed by the City Council to the Library Board. How could the public answer these questions when most don’t know. It appears a majority of "yes" voters hadn’t set foot in a public library for years. One yes voter thought they would need ladders to reach the seventh shelf which is the most popular height manufactured by library stack sellers. All Peoria Public Libraries but Lakeview use all seven shelves if needed. Peoria Heights library uses a quantity of 14” high stools on wheels called "Kick Steps to reach the seventh shelf and to sit on when accessing the bottom shelf. Lakeview has one if you can find it.

The Lakeview Library has 1100 feet (think 3 football fields) of empty book space. Why would the library board be possibly thinking of expanding it especially as they are claiming that a new north side library would have more activity than any other public library in Peoria? The JS reported on 9/26/01 that ‘employees routinely squeeze into tiny spaces’. If so why not put the books on the 1100 feet of empty shelves, take down two stacks or more and free up more space for larger work areas and computers. Good question, why not?

Here are a few other questions that have gone unanswered:

The library Board claims it will do all this expansion without coming to the property taxpayer for more overhead expenses; no more money to operate than it does now. Does that sound resonable? If so, I have the traditional bridge....

Why comfortable easy chairs for the Downtown Library when up to 20% of the users will be “street people”? The first time the library discriminates, expect a lawsuit.

Do not use taxpayer dollars to compete with a sinking Borders and a struggling Barnes and Noble. Look for B & n to buy Borders before the year is over. They both pay taxes and contribute in other ways to make this a better community.

Question. The library board says that they need free computer use for people who can’t afford them. Give a laptop to the poverty and below level frequent users because all information needed for learning is available on the expanding internet. They could then bring their own computers to any library and do their research. They could work at home and be connected wireless to any library. 5,000 computers at $500 a computer would only amount to $2.5 million dollars. Within 4 years, 20,000 computers would be available to practically every poor family in Peoria for $10 million dollars. What a great service to the community as they could also take them to school.

Why not? Look at all the costly space that would be saved. Think outside the box!

Long time library expansion supporter, the Journal Star Editorial Board, used Schaumberg’s library as an example of what Peoria should have, a library built in a “busy shopping center” (JSEB) 9/27/01. None of the proposed locations are near a “busy” shopping center.

Why was $500,000 of taxpayer money (the JSEB on 9/26/01 thought it would cost $100,000) spent on the two story Southside Library with an $80,000 elevator? Why was it built in an area when it was known that the housing in this area was going to be demolished; half of it is now gone with the balance to be demolished when funds are available from HUD?

This Southside Library was built in 2001-2 after it was described by the JSEB on 9/26/01 as “crowded”. If is was crowded in 2001 and two stories requested renovated, why is it now six years later underutilized, under staffed and with insufficient programs and slated to be demolished.? (Source – Peoria Public Library Proposed Strategic Plan – THE FACTS) What happened to the computer lab that required a 2nd floor that now consists of only one working computer? On one visit this spring there were three but two have now been transferred elsewhere.

The facts? I don’t believe the nostalgia driven politicians who passionately supported the referendum could say no. How would it look at the next election when their opponent claimed they did not support libraries. Just like Obama using McCain’s ‘figure of speech’ of a "hundred years in Iraq if it takes it". Bet most of Obama’s supporters don’t realize we have had our troops stationed on foreign land for at least 60 years.

The JS reported that in 2006 that 868,062 items of all kinds were checked out in 2006, yet Library Board president McKenzie said in an article printed on 5/24/08 in the JS that "2100 items of all kinds were checked out in 2007". 2100 times a generous 354 days equals 743,400 or SHRINKAGE of 125,000 items, not an INCREASE as the library proponent’s claim.

Why the discrepancy?

The library board acknowledged that they knew their new head director was fired from his last job and justified it to the public as “being politics”. The Attorney General of the State of Indiana put it in these words as reported by the Indianapolis Star: “Nearly $60,000 has been returned to the Indianapolis/Marion County Public Library’s operating budget since a state audit revealed misappropriated public funds. A final check of $22,446 has been received to cover their audit charges against former Chief Executive Officer Ed Szynaka for questionable purchases on the libraries credit card.. We have worked with all parties involved to recover the thousands of dollars inappropriately depleted from the public library’s operating budget—etc”.
Question: Did the yes voters have knowledge of this/? None I talked to knew this story. Also as an aside, why did the JS NOT report it?

On 9/27/07, the JS reported that “a massive $1 million dollar taxsspayer supported complex system would link 198 Central Illinois libraries together by internet”. The article says that “from Galva to Jacksonville; Quincy to Streator, this modern internet system will help get books in the hands of patrons faster and more easily along with a long list of the benefits”. Why then the need for so many books, as many as 7 identical, needed on most all the shelves in Peoria’s Public Library System? Good question. Why?

Why the need for all the bulky unusede reference books at each location when all that information is computerized?

The library says it filters porn from the users screen. Why did I see a totally naked woman committing what most would agree was an interesting sexual act being view by 4 young men; no I wasn’t viewing, I was seeing how my tax dollars are spent) on a Downtown Library monitor. (Maybe this prompted the reference to Elliott’s) Does the system filter or not? Also, since the computers accept discs, why couldn’t somebody bring in a “how to make a bomb” disc to show their friends? How is this problem monitored?

The library expansion includes hundreds of unsupervised computers. An article in the JS recently told of man using a Collinsville Public library to scam people out of thousands of dollars on 30 different stolen credit card numbers. I personally saw a monitor with the screen labeled “How to Create Your Own Social Security Card at Lakeview library.. How does the library plan to do a better job of monitoring or will kids be able to look at things their parents deny at home on the tax funded public library computers?

A reminder: Both the African-American Museum and the Boys and Girls Club are closed. The museum has been closed for more than 6 months and the B&G Club since May 1, 2007. That Equal opportunities offered is the duty of the City Council. If the opportunities are not used in some parts of the city, it is not the council’s responsibility to expand with taxpayer dollars.

All three libraries on the Southside by the library board admission are underused. How will the small group of users get from the closed Southside Library and RiverWest to Lincoln Library? School Superintendent Hinton has said he will have a sizeable library with book check-out privileges at the new Harrison K-8 School.

Where is the proof that the underused Lincoln Library will be overwhelmed by new users?

Why are only 5 of the 8 computers in the lower level at Lincoln out of order if the demand for their use is so great?

The National Endowment of Art in a report issued several years ago said “that for the first time in modern history less than half of the adult population reads literature. The decline is most experienced in college age kids and young people are likely to read less.”

Why didn’t the library board ask the high school principals and librarians about the future needs of all people who valued learning and the relaxation of reading good works, fiction or non-fiction? They didn’t. I asked each one including Mary Ward, Head of Libraries and Technology at Peoria Public School District #150. The Library Administrator says he talked with Ken Hinton because he would know more than the librarians? With all the districts problems, there is room for doubt on that statement also.

Why not? Did they ask the private schools? I hear they didn’t ask them either.

Why did the library board in 2001 pick out a location north on Allen Road, pleading with the council to give them the money to buy the land?

The good news. In 2001, the library was going to spend $17 million to expand Lakeview if the council would have given them the funds. (JS 9/26/01). They also wanted to purchase 7 acres of land and build a branch on N. Allen road for $6.9 million. The council made a wise decision in not giving them the money in 2001.

Council, this $35 million is not one of our most pressing priorities. Remember that Senator David Koehler said on 3/18/08 that “he did not care what the polls showed”. This referendum was a poll with many facts glossed over by the library board and the media. As to a large showing of support, if you worked for the library it was “suggested” that you attend the public hearings.


dd said...

"Why comfortable easy chairs for the Downtown Library when up to 20%of the users will be “street people”? The first time the library discriminates, expect a lawsuit."

I don't know the above statement means. Are you saying that if the staff doesn't allow a patron to sit in an easy chair because they are dirty, the library will be sued? Could you explain?

In no version of reality do publically funded libraries "compete" with Borders or Barnes and Noble. But even if they did, public access to knowledge and culture, like healthcare, should not be limited to those that can pay for it.

I must say that I like your idea of taxpayer funding to put a $500 laptop in the hands of every person who cannot afford one. What a progressive solution. Maybe it should be proposed to the county board.

As to naked ladies and fake social security cards, that is what you put up with in a free society. There are no 100% guarantees in life, so why should we hold the library to that standard.

What is your point regarding the African American Museum and the Boys and Girls Club?

Merle Widmer said...


You should donate more of your time to the B & G Club and AA Museum. Then maybe they wouldn't be closed.

Also more of your time to volunteer at The Southside Library and then they wouldn't be "understaffed" as the library board uses as one of the reasons they are closing it.

The library board made my point. Use it or lose it.

As to you watching naked women doing lewd acts, do it on your dime, not the property tax payers dime.

Sorry, but you are good at trying to put your words into my blogs. At no point dide I EVER say "dirty people".

You did.

An no, I don't have to explain to you. The saying is "never try to debate a subject with an idiot, you just lower yourself to their low position.

If your next comment doesn't make any more sense than the one's you ususally make, I will erase it and block you from my comment site.

Set up yur own blog site and stop using mine and show your stupidity under a real name and quit hiding behind DD.

Could DD be Dumb Dumb?

dd said...

Merle, I'm so disappointed in you. I thought we were having an intelligent dialogue, and now you call me an idiot and a dumb dumb and threaten to ban me from your site. I guess this will be my last post on your site. I read your blog because I find you to be one of the best at articulating the conservative position, particularly as it relates to the Peoria area. Naturally, I don't agree with everything you say, and since you invite comments, I always felt free to make a comment. I don't think that I have been personal in any comments I have made, always referring to "conservatives" or "republicans" rather than you individually. I actually agree with much of what you say. However, I have noticed in your comments what I believe to be a common theme with "conservatives" which is a propensity to blame the less fortunate for their neediness. You know what, I think I'll stop here and just say that people who are identified as liberals are not idiots or dumb/dumbs or traitors or socialists. They're not trying to pick the pockets of taxpayers; they don't have a mental disease and people should talk to them even if they don't have to. Last week I heard a quote that may sound familiar about a late liberal politician that, I think, describes the best of liberalism tody: he was "simply a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it."

Sorry if I've caused you any harm.


Anonymous said...

The only comment I have is on the 5,000 computers for $500ea. There are WAY less expensive options out there IF these folks start thinking a little outside the box.

Take a look at this $359 Dell Optiplex bundle ( This is a high-end Pentium 4 2.8GHz with HT enable CPU, XP PRO is legally pre-installed with recovery disk, a matching 15" LCD is INCLUDED, and you even get a 3-year warranty on the PC, and a 1-year warranty on the LCD.

$359ea and you got yourself PCs (with LCD monitor) that will outlast your Director :)