Letter: Chance, It is not possible to keep the library as it is
August 4, 2016
It is not possible to keep the library as it is
Please note that this letter is being reprinted to include the following from Mary E. Chance. "This is my personal opinion as a trustee of the board and that I do not speak for the board as a whole."
Over the past several months we have had very few good suggestions come in for how to bring us out of this mire. We have however, had plenty of name calling, people questioning our motives, and a heavy dose of sentimentalism. Some have even suggested that we charge for our services. As a professional librarian I have an ethical obligation to protecting the principals of librarianship and as such, I will never support any changes that undermine those principals. Just as doctors today have to sometimes protect their patrons from meddling by career politicians, I will do the same for my library patrons. No amount of political posturing by our county commission will change the fact that we will very soon be unable to keep any library doors open if we do not change the way we operate.
When I spoke to Jane Tollet recently she said she hoped that we would develop a plan to keep the library district functioning at its current level over the next ten years. I will tell you all exactly what I told her and I will go on the record as saying, it is not possible. We do not have the population, the tax base, the industry, or the funds to keep a library district of this size afloat in this county. People are correct when they say that closing Hot Sulphur will not fix the budget problems. That's because the budget issues are much larger than what any one change can fix. That's why we made this three-year plan. That's why we're cutting central services and tightening up department budgets. If we could sell the central services building tomorrow and convert all of our public meeting spaces in the individual branches to office space for staff, I think we would do it, but it still wouldn't fix the problem. We could pass a mill levy tomorrow but it still wouldn't fix the problem. The fact of the matter is, no matter how much people love their library you cannot get blood from a turnip. Unless there was some influx of tens of thousands of people who suddenly were paying record amounts for their homes, or the mine returning to production at 100 percent of what it was doing before, we will not be able to raise enough money or cut enough to keep all of these libraries open. We as a board know that. No one is ever going to say "Please, close my library" but at some point we have to look past the pleas and the threats and do what is right for the good of us all. We cannot change the results of past board decisions but if we at this juncture do not take action to restructure our operations in a way that facilitates long term survival, the entire district will fail. This is not hyperbole, this is reality.
Mary E. Chance
Trustee – Grand County Library District