Magazine article American Libraries

Library Referenda Meet with Mixed Results

Magazine article American Libraries

Library Referenda Meet with Mixed Results

Article excerpt

The relative handful of library referenda placed before voters in the November 2 off-year election met with mixed results. The three largest measures reported to American Libraries--in San Mateo, California; Mecklenburg County, North Carolina; and Columbus, Georgia--all passed. However, voters' rejection of a proposal to create a special tax district resulted in the closure, at least temporarily, of the Corning (N.Y.) Area Public Library.

Over 70% of San Mateo voters supported the $35-million Measure F, which needed at least two-thirds approval. "The library is overcrowded and out of date," Brad Lyau, Yes on Measure F campaign field director, told the November 3 San Francisco Examiner. "With the new money, we will be expanding the library's open-stack space by at least 50%." A small portion of the funds will go toward refurbishing two branches.

The $34-million bond proposal in Mecklenburg County, which was among six bond measures approved by voters, included $27 million for a children's learning center, which officials say could be completed within two years, as well as funds for new library branches in Coulwood, Hickory Grove, and Steele Creek.

Muscogee County voters approved a 1% sales tax to build a new 100,000-square-foot main library in Columbus, Georgia, expected to cost as much as $50.4 million. The narrow 52% victory in the face of opposition from antitax groups was owed in part to an October 19 announcement that anonymous donors had pledged $15 million toward an endowment for the new library, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported October 3.

After 102 years of continuous service, financial woes closed the Corning Area Public Library October 30. The library's only hope of reopening was the creation of a special tax district to fund the financially strapped facility. However, although three other towns in the library's service area overwhelmingly approved the proposal in September, it was rejected at that time by Caton and East Campbell. State law permitted the second vote November 2, which also failed.

Two days later, the board of trustees voted to ask the state Supreme Court to dissolve the library's charter and give its assets--including the buildings, the 123,000-item collection, and equipment--to a local nonprofit agency that will act as trustee, the Elmira Star-Gazette reported November 5. A formal letter of termination will be sent to staff informing them December 31 is their last day.

The board expressed hope that the closure would be temporary. "Someday down the road, someone will wake up and smell the coffee and realize that this community needs a library, but not now," board Chair Alan F. Donnelly, told the Corning Leader. Newly elected Corning Mayor Alan D. Davis said election night that reopening the library would be one of his top priorities, and resident Joseph M. Cavallaro volunteered his services as a professional business manager to help find new funding sources.

This state-by-state roundup of library referenda and other local ballot issues is based on reports from state library agencies, newspaper coverage, and other sources.

Florida. Charlotte County, Florida voters approved a new $3.5-million headquarters library for the Charlotte-Glades Library System. The library project, one of several funded with by a one-cent sales tax initiative, was a strong selling point for the referendum package, according to Charlie Parker of the state Division of Library and Information Services.

Iowa. A proposal to tax the residents of Council Bluffs seven cents per $1,000 assessed valuation to fund Sunday hours at the library was defeated by a vote of 2,953 to 2,106. The measure would have raised some $93,000 to open the library four hours on Sunday afternoon during the school year.

The Lenox Public Library passed two bond issues. The first decreased the library board's size from nine to seven members; the second was a library levy of 27 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation, which passed by three votes. …

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