On Wednesday, they announced that they would be closing 12 of the county libraries. I was somewhat shocked – 12 seemed like an awful lot. In fact, it’s a full half of the local libraries.
I thought about the ones near me. I have four locations within about 5 miles of me, so I figured three of those might close, and the biggest one, the Regional one, would remain open.
On Thursday, they announced which library locations would be closing.
All 4 of the locations near me are closing.
Here’s a map of the closings.
I live near 14, the Morrison Regional Branch that I thought they would keep open. You’ll see that there is now a HUGE hole in the South Charlotte and East Charlotte areas. They recently remodeled the Myers Park location (16), and it’s closing. And the Hickory Branch location (8) is a new $5 million building that opened 6 weeks ago. What a waste.
Meanwhile, they are keeping 7 (Freedom Regional) & 24 (West Blvd) open (see how close together they are?), as well as 11 (Downtown) and 18 (Plaza-Midwood), also close together. (ImaginOn, 9, doesn’t really count, as it’s specifically a children’s library.)
And they’re closing 5 (Cornelius), but leaving 6 (Davidson) & 17 (North Co Regional)? Why not close Davidson & North Co Regional and leave Cornelius open, since it’s in the middle of the two? (Granted, I think it’s a smaller branch, but you see my point.)
The board says they looked at “overall cost of library operations, usage levels, proximity to other branches and library size.” I don’t think they took the proximity issue into account, based on the huge holes on the map.
Future budget cuts may reduce the library system even further, to just the downtown branch, or maybe the downtown, a North Regional, and a South Regional.
I was absolutely sick about this when I read about it on Thursday. And based on the comments on all the news articles online, so is everyone else. There’s a grassroots effort to raise the $2 million needed to keep these branches open, but the deadline is Wednesday. So far, $35,000 has been raised. You can donate here. The problem with this, of course, is that it only saves them this year. More budget cuts in future years will only put them back on the chopping block.
This isn’t simply about losing libraries. 148 employees are being laid off. People who depend on the branches for internet access, meeting locations, children’s story time, and any of the other programs the library runs, will need to find an alternative. It’s exacerbating a problem – the unemployed who can’t afford a computer or internet access go to the library to search for jobs, but now they won’t be able to do that, or will have to drive further (or find another bus route). Kids who can’t afford books will now have a harder time checking them out of the library, possible leading to a decline in education and/or reading levels.
Why not cut hours, or days, like the postal service? Sure, close a few locations. There are other ways, I think, that this could have been handled. Charge a nominal fee for internet usage ($1/half hour?), or charge higher fines for past due books. There will still be operating costs on the closed locations – leases that need to be fulfilled, security and maintenance for the now empty buildings.
I’ve always joked that the way I support the local library is by paying overdue fines, because I’m almost always late with books. Now I’m looking for another way to support the library. Where’s a damn petition I can sign??