Indiana Libraries Consolidation?

Remember this from November 2007:

Save our Small Libraries!

Dear Michael:

I want to tell you about my new blog. Aside from the standard issues that Librarians face here in Indiana we have a new one that has the potential for disastrous consequences for small public libraries here in Indiana.

A large issue, which I feel is being played down by some, is the consolidation of all public libraries in the state. Few Librarians and taxpayers alike feel that this is going to be a beneficial change. Currently there are 238 libraries. The consolidation of public libraries would mean that there are 92.

Somehow I got the bright idea of starting a blog to effectively disseminate the information that was blowing through my Inbox everyday. There simply was no place to gather all of the relevant information and opinions in one tidy little spot for all to see and comment upon.

Stephen Boggs

Looks like Stephen ran out of steam on his blog but the issue continues to be a concern and the proposed consolidation of Indiana libraries is getting more discussion here and there. LJ reports on the issue and quotes the director of my former library:

Don Napoli, director of the St. Joseph County Public Library and one of the few library directors to publicly support consolidation, told LJ, “Nobody wants to lose their boards, nobody wants to lose control of their own library.” Though his is a county library in name, only about 11 of 32 current county libraries cover the full county; one community with a separate library in St. Joseph County directly borders the central city of South Bend.

As for Swanson’s concerns, Napoli suggested, “They might get a better library… It’s more likely that we could build a new branch for them before they’re going to afford it.” He acknowledged that, statewide, there probably wouldn’t be much cost savings from consolidation, but “I think it’ll result in better libraries.”

He said it was natural for library leaders to want to keep local control. “But if they’re thinking the status quo is going to stay the way it is, they’re wrong,” he said. Also, said Napoli, library leaders should come up with an alternative that the governor and state legislature would accept—and that would have the support of all libraries.

Beyond consolidiation, unelected library boards will have trouble maintaining fiscal autonomy, as the commission has recommended that all library budgets be approved by local governments. “They may be able to retain their boards, but they’re not going to have taxing authority,” Napoli predicted.