Library Board seeks public input on tough budget issues

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In the next two weeks, the Minneapolis Library Board is holding four public meetings to hear your thoughts and opinions before they make a decision about the 2007–2009 budget.

With two renovated libraries, East Lake and North Regional, scheduled to open in early 2007, the board is facing a serious cash crunch because they don’t have the funds to operate the libraries without taking money away from the other 13 city libraries. And even though Minneapolis residents approved a referendum in 2000 to build the new Central Library downtown and renovate the community libraries, referendum dollars can only be used for construction, not operations. In the past, operating dollars have come from local government aid, but the state slashed those funds in 2003, leading to a $3 million dollar cut for the Minneapolis libraries. Since 2003, the libraries have laid off a quarter of their staff and cut hours by 25 percent.

To address the serious financial shortfall the libraries are facing, the Library Board is considering several options. One plan, called “Part-time Libraries,” would keep all 15 libraries open, but with reduced hours: eight of the 15 would be open three days a week, three would be open four days a week, and only four would be open five days a week.

Another option, called “A Few Good Libraries,” would close 10 libraries and keep just five open: the Central library, East Lake, Northeast, North Regional, and Washburn. The proceeds from the sale of those libraries would be used to pay down the board’s debt, to fund operations, and to increase the book budget.

A third option, called “Consistent Service Throughout,” would close the three smallest libraries: Southeast, Roosevelt (in South Minneapolis), and Webber Park (in the Camden neighborhood). The 12 remaining libraries would be open five days a week.

To share your ideas for balancing the budget with the Library Board, plan to attend one of the four remaining public meetings. They are:

1. Monday, September 18, 6-9 pm
Sumner Library, 611 Van White Memorial Blvd.

2. Tuesday, September 19, 6-9 pm
Minnehaha United Methodist Church, 3701 E. 50th St.

3. Thursday, September 21, 6-9 pm
Central Library, 300 Nicollet Mall

4. Monday, September 25, 6-9 pm
Northeast Library, 2200 Central Ave. NE

For more information about the 2007–2009 budget process and the different options the board is considering, “click here”:http://www.mpls.lib.mn.us/shapemplsfuture.asp.

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