Gwinnett to Close Dacula Branch

I follow news about Gwinnett closely because of all of the interesting and strange things their board has done. It’s a perfect example for teaching. Take a look at the newest news:

At a specially called meeting Tuesday evening, the Library Board of Trustees voted to take the step in the face of budget cuts mandated by the County Commission. The vote was 3-1.

Already this week, Gwinnett residents have seen the library system take the unusual step of closing Sundays and Mondays and reducing hours the rest of the week.

In a heated discussion at Tuesday’s meeting, District 3 board member Phil Saxton objected to the action, calling it “shameful.”

“Why would you close the Dacula library?” he asked. “It seems the effect of these budget cuts are to be borne by those living in District 3.”

But other board members countered that it makes more sense to close the Dacula branch, which has the same square footage and comparable staff as the Hamilton Mill branch will have.

Saxton insisted that it makes no sense to close any libraries. Instead, he said, the board should look for ways to cut costs at all branches to fund the new library. He recommended charging for library cards to those who can afford to pay.

That brought a quick response from board Chairwoman Phyllis Oxendine.

“We will not now or ever charge for a library card,” she said. She called the suggestion discriminatory against all residents who pay taxes to fund the library system.

The board’s action paves the way for another $2 million in cuts from its 2010 operating budget of $24 million.

Library director Nancy Stanbery-Kellam said the Dacula branch lies in the same service district as the Hamilton Mill branch. The patrons from Dacula will have to travel seven miles to the new library, she said, but the alternative would be to have a new state-of-the-art building sitting empty through 2010.

A Facebook group has formed to save the library:

I found this comment very telling from one of the supporters, Colin Daymude:

Direct quote from Library Exec Director Nancy Kellam. “The library staff strives to maintain a transparent organization that is open to feedback”.

I’m sorry but where was the transparency when the very private vote took place. By private I mean it was not on the publicly available agenda. Hmmm how come?

Disclaimer: My co-author on “The Transparent Library” is Gwinnett Library Technology Director Michael Casey.