By DAVID GREEN
Discussion last month about a county-wide library district has Morenci’s Stair Public Library board concerned about losing autonomy of its operations.
Adrian Public Library director Carol Souchock scheduled an informational session Nov. 28 to discuss the formation of a district library. An attorney who specializes in library law was present to discuss the steps required.
Tecumseh’s library is the only one in the county that operates as an independent district library. The others—Adrian, Blissfield, Clinton Township, Hudson and Morenci—are all affiliated with their local governments. In addition, the Lenawee County Library, founded by the county commissioners and based in Adrian, operates branch libraries in Addison, Britton, Clayton, Deerfield and Onsted.
Earlier this year, a cost-savings proposal was made to consolidate the Adrian city library with the county library, but the discussion Nov. 28 presented an opportunity to bring all of the county’s libraries together into a single district.
The plan calls for formation of a district library planning committee in February 2012 and a levy proposal to appear on the August 2013 ballot. The committee would decide how much millage to request. If the funding proposal failed, the district would not be formed.
The first step is for each participating library board and government unit to adopt a resolution to appoint representatives to the planning committee. Forming a library district could serve as a collaborative effort to meet requirements set forth by Michigan governor Rick Snyder.
Stair Public Library’s board of trustees met in a special session Dec. 8 to discuss the matter.
Library director Colleen Leddy spoke about a loss of autonomy because Stair would no longer have its own board of trustees. Instead, a district board would form—either by appointment or election—and it’s possible that Morenci would have no representation.
Board president Sally Kruger said the change would result in Morenci having to compete with other libraries in the district for funding.
Morenci has scheduled many author visits in the past, she noted, and someone at the Nov. 28 meeting pointed out the benefit of sharing visiting authors.
“But someone else would decide who is going to come and at which libraries they would appear,” Kruger said.
She pointed out that with a local board, decisions can be made quickly about seeking a grant for a special project, but by the time a district board made a decision, the grant opportunity could be gone.
“We’re small and we’re rural,” Leddy said. “That benefits us in so many ways.”
Several grants the library has received are available only to smaller libraries.
Kruger expressed concern that a county-wide district could lead to less funding for Stair which would result in fewer services.
Leddy sees the following options for the library:
• Trying to remain the same, despite unstable funding sources.
• Joining a county district and losing autonomy and perhaps funding.
• Forming its own library district. In that case, residents within the district would have to approve a millage to support the library.
Leddy considers doing nothing at all a head-in-the-sand approach. Even if the county-wide district doesn’t go through, she thinks the board should explore options.
Kruger said many of the questions asked at the Nov. 28 meeting were answered with the statement that the district library planning committee will decide.
That uncertainty caught the attention of city council’s library representative Robert Jennings who attended the Stair board’s special meeting.
“It amazes me how much we don’t know,” he said.