WI Board calls for closing library

Yet another library closes! The La Crosse Library Board has recommended the South Community Library be closed as a cost-cutting move, the city’s mayor said Thursday.

The board voted Thursday to propose shutting down the branch library, open since 1922 and at its 1307 S. 16th St. site for more than 60 years, when the city’s Board of Estimates begins meeting Monday on the 2014 budget.

[I'm kidding about the "yet another", I know the research has been done :-)]


I wonder if anyone is keeping an up-to-date record of library and/or branch closings. I think someone should.

See The End of Libraries at http://alltogethernow.org/showtag.php?currid=85

Yes, the research has been done--and as is almost always the case, this is a branch closure that may or may not be a sensible move for local conditions, not a library/system closure that eliminates library services for a city or town. ("Sensible move": If the city won't provide adequate funding, the library board may be dealing with two choices--inadequate hours, staffing and collection at more locations, or fewer locations that are more serviceable.)

From the way that story reads in terms of staffing, they're barely holding on at that branch if the staff are part-time and the administrators are triple-hatted with that branch plus two other branches under their direction. As bad as it sounds, realignment of resources is probably going to be needed for that system. The choice is to have one painful cut now or possibly many painful cuts down the road if finances do not improve.

Right now locally I'm seeing the intricately designed knife-edge budget for this year created by my local county commissioners destroyed because a statutory duty they had not expected to carry out is going to cost possibly half a million dollars. Most every county agency that the commissioners directly control the budget of were already not funded at what were deemed adequate minimum levels. Those agencies were expected to cut corners and forego spending wherever possible. Basic things like policing and the administration of justice may get gutted yet. Having a single sheriff without any deputies to cover a physical land mass the size of New York City yet very thinly populated in contrast is a very real possibility for the remainder of this calendar year.

If sacrificing one branch will let service continue at the others, that is a tactical decision that probably should be made. You can't have an agency survive on a knife-edge budget. Doing more with less sounds nice but it is definitely destructive.

I lived in La Crosse from 2000-2004. La Crosse is a city of about 50,000 which is stretched along the Mississippi River between the river itself and a long range of bluffs, making it looooong north-to-south but limiting growth to the east/west. I was working at a medical center library, but often visited the main public library, which is heavily used and well-appointed both in building and collection (and decor: the children's area has a huge wooden ship that you can walk into and play on!). Because of the superior collection at the main branch, I admit I only visited the north and south branches once apiece. Each is in an older building than the main branch, and each probably serves lower-income neighborhoods in its area, but I was always surprised that a city this size could support three branches. I would imagine that between the extra staffing, duplication of collection resources, and higher maintenance/remodeling costs of the two older buildings, usage would have to be VERY high to justify those two branches' existence in a town where it really isn't a big deal for patrons to bike or bus to the main branch. And at my visits to the north/south branches, high usage just wasn't what I saw. Steady, but not high. So...although I'm sad that this branch will close (it was, after all, my neighborhood), if it makes a difference to the other two branches' ability to keep forging ahead with high quality facilities and service, then I'm for it.

I do however think the headline is misleading. Sure, you had to specify somewhere that La Crosse is in Wisconsin, but "WI Board calls for closing library" implies that this is some state-level governing board that is closing a small library branch in a not-very-big city. I work for the state and am well aware of the damage our Governor has wreaked on public library funding in general, but to my knowledge neither he nor any other state-government entity has the right to outright close individual library facilities! Yes, you do immediately clarify that this is the La Crosse Library Board making the decision, but still, better to not mislead in the first place.

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