School board considering district library request 2014.11.19

By DAVID GREEN

The Morenci Board of Education will vote at its Dec. 1 meeting about a request to create the Stair District Library based on the school district boundaries.

The library board is seeking the creation of a district library to form a solid financial base in light of diminishing funds from the City of Morenci. If approved by the board of education, voters residing in the school district boundaries would decide the fate of a proposed 1.15 mill levy to fund the library.

With a district library agreement in place between the city and the school, explained city administrator/clerk Michael Sessions, city council could appoint three city residents to a new district library board of directors and the school board could appoint four, either from the city or the townships.

The portions of the Morenci school district in Hudson, Fairfield and Dover townships would not be part of the Stair district because they are already included in either the Hudson or the county library boundaries.

Stair Public Library director Colleen Leddy explained during a joint meeting last week between city council and school board members that the library board’s original plan was to work through township boundaries, but no agreement could be worked out with township representatives.

School board president Scott Merillat asked why the school would want to get involved since it has many issues of it own.

Leddy explained that the library would function as a separate entity and the board of education’s only role would be to appoint board members. She expects there will be people willing to serve and she doesn’t see that as a problem for the school board.

School board member Ivy Hutchison said that she’s heard people wonder how the school can take on the library when it already has financial problems of its own.

“I’ve told them there’s no financial impact,” she said.

Merillat expressed concern that people will think the school is asking for more money.

Leddy said that the ballot language would only list Stair District Library. There would be no connection with either the city or the school. 

“We would have to make that very clear,” she said. “I don’t think anybody wants to jeopardize what’s happening with the schools.”

School board member Laura Spencer wondered what legal liability the school might have. 

“All liability would be with the district library board,” Sessions said.

If the millage were to fail, the library would return to the existing relationship with city government.

Phil McCaskey asked if libraries are used less due to electronic communications, but Leddy said that use of Stair is holding fairly steady. Programming efforts make up for declines in daily use, and people find new ways to use the library, such as computer use.

Councilor Sean Seger said that currently the library board covers funding shortfalls with its own money, but that will dry up in a few years.

“The effort here is to maintain, if not improve, the services that the library offers,” he said. “We don’t want to see a reduction in hours or services. Services are offered to both the community and the school and we don’t want to see that go away.”