The Washington Times-Herald

Local News

December 23, 2010

How valuable is a library card?

WASHINGTON — City residents pay for the Washington Carnegie Public Library through their property taxes. Some township trustees contract with the library to allow their residents to get library cards at no cost.

Beginning Jan. 1, residents of Washington Township will have to pay the set price of $38 for a card.

The library board, in an attempt to level the playing field for those using the facility but living outside the city limits, increased the amount on contracts with the townships for 2011. Washington Township’s contract increased $1,000 to $10,500. The first increase in 18 years.

The library board notified the township trustees in Bogard, Elmore, Steele, Veale and Washington township in 2009 that there would be an increase in 2010 anywhere from 10 percent to 50 percent depending on the numbers. The board also invited all the trustees to a meeting in May of this year to discuss the increases. Amy Holstine, Bogard Township trustee, attended the meeting and trustees from Steele and Elmore townships were contacted by phone. Those townships support the Plainville branch of the library. They agreed to a 10 percent increase in 2011 with each township contracting to pay $6,000 for the year. Veale Township’s contract increased the most percentage-wise as it went up nearly 50 percent. An amount that brought its contract to $3,000 for the year 2011. Washington Township’s increase was a little less than 10 percent, but it was more than the township board thought they could pay.

“We’ve had to cut the budget,” Washington Township Trustee Pete Showalter said. “We’ve cut every one of them, except the library.”

The library board understands budget cuts. It has faced falling revenue from taxes along with every other taxing unit in the state.

“We’re dealing with all those issues,” Librarian Teresa Heidenreich said. “We’re the lowest paid government unit in Washington. Our staff faces low pay, no insurance. We had to let an employee go at the end of 2009 and had to let another one go this year. That’s never happened before. We can’t cut the staff lower and still meet state standards.”

Heidenreich said they have to go by state library standards, including offering programs and keeping enough staff to meet demands.

“I don’t want to cut library hours,” she added.

For Heidenreich, the real problem with Washington Township not wanting to contract with the library for 2011 is the hardship on the patrons.

“We have a lot of patrons from Washington Township,” she said. “I don’t know their financial status, but I know that for a lot this is where they come for entertainment (DVDs) and education.”

As of Oct. 1, the library had 6,392 patrons, with 18 percent or 1,157 from Washington Township. Those Washington Township patrons accounted for 22 percent of the circulation or 15, 453 items.

If the township rejects the offered contract prior to Dec. 30, Washington Township residents will join those of Reeve, Barr and Harrison in having to pay $38 for a library card.

“People just don’t realize this is a private contract between the library and the townships,” library board President Martin Mumaw III said. “From a technical standpoint there’s nothing that says we have to offer this to the townships,” he said. “We think it’s important.”

Offering the library to everyone is a goal of Heidenreich and the thought of so many patrons losing checkout privileges is distressing to her.

“We’ve tried working with them (Washington Township Board) for the past year and the trustee just hasn’t been responsive,” she said.

Showalter said he didn’t remember getting a letter with the 2010 contract warning of the contract increase for 2011 and in May he was dealing with the illness and death of his wife.

For him is was a shock when the contract arrived with the increase.

“We always got a blank contract before,” he said. “Then our board would just fill in the amount.”

The board considered the increase on the 2011 contract and decided they couldn’t afford it. Showalter confirmed that all three members of his board, Glenn Newton, John Horton and Nancy Singleton, live within the Washington city limits so their library use would not be affected by refusing to contract with the library.

“We feel that literacy is important,” Michelle Guy, Showalter’s daughter and township office assistant, added. “But this is the first year we had to cut poor relief. We cut the cemetery budget. We really can’t cut back anymore.”

Heidenreich said the library depends on grants and fundraisers to help them keep things together and offer the programs for youth and adult. She also pointed out that anyone can use the library. They just can’t check out items without a card. With a photo ID, the computers are available as are the books, at least you can read them in the library.

As the townships don’t pay the contract until December of the year contracted, they just paid the 2010 contract, Heidenreich said she can’t understand how they (township board) know they won’t have that thousand dollars, but do know they will have $500 next December. She’s especially concerned that the board wasn’t listening to their appeals last year, in May of this year or in June when the contracts were sent out.

Showalter said he offered to have library cards at the township office on State Street in Washington for township patrons that can’t afford the cards, but Heidenreich said the library can’t discriminate by income.

“You can’t discriminate with a library card,” she said. “Library patrons are treated equally.

“The county and city have high hopes with I-69,” Heidenreich said. “When people are deciding where to live they look at the infrastructure and the library is a part of that. Washington Township won’t have library services. It’s all about the patrons.”

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