Published: Jul 13, 2008 10:47 AM
Modified: Jul 13, 2008 10:47 AM
At 3:30 p.m. July 1, 30 Carrboro Branch Library patrons arrived at McDougle Middle School to find the doors locked. This included a family of five children with books in hand, senior citizens arriving on public transportation, and library regulars.
The newly posted sign on the door stated the revised hours -- Closed Monday; open Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday: 5 to 8 p.m; Saturday: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; and Sunday: 1 to 5 p.m. -- reducing the library's total hours to 17. Many of those waiting said it would not be convenient to return at 5 p.m., or later that day. At the same time, three library employees were terminated due to cuts in funding, some with over 10 years of service to the Carrboro Branch Library. Another two had their hours severely cut back.
On May 20, the 2007 Orange County Library Task Force presented its final recommendations to the Orange County Board of County Commissioners. Chairwoman Evelyn Daniel said it was a priority to establish a full-time, freestanding southwest branch of the Orange County Library to meet the great need as determined by the Task Force. She emphasized the importance of libraries to all Orange County communities, particularly during these difficult economic times.
The commissioners thanked the task force and noted most of the task force members had served on the 2000, 2004, and 2007 Library Task Forces, with the recommendations reflecting the sum of eight years work. Commissioner Mike Nelson asked the county manager when this report would be discussed and was informed there would be an October work session.
No indication was given at the May 20 meeting that at the end of June, a mere six weeks later, the county would cut the operating budget of the Carrboro Branch Library and would cut the temporary employee budget by 62 percent, forcing the Carrboro Branch Library to reduce by 34.6 percent (down to 17 from 26) its hours of operation.
This decision effectively locks up 22,000 books and periodicals, and limits computer access to library patrons and Orange County taxpayers. These cuts are on top of cuts made during the 2007-2008 fiscal year, when funding cuts for the Carrboro Branch Library "temporaries" effectively removed the Spanish-speaking outreach position from the library.
While all county agencies are experiencing budget cuts, the pain has not been equitable. The Orange County Public Library in Hillsborough received less than a 1 percent reduction in its hours of operation (down to 60 from 64), and an astounding increase of $55,000 in its overall budget. These disproportionate cuts are outrageous when you consider the population base in southwest Orange County, along with the promise of the commissioners to serve the library needs of ALL county residents, and the recommendations of the 2004 and 2007 Library Task Forces.
Carrboro is the largest town in North Carolina without a freestanding, full-service library. The consequences of the limited Carrboro Branch Library hours of operation have affected the Chapel Hill Public Library as well. The strain on its services are well documented. Chapel Hill Mayor Kevin Foy requested an increase in financial support from the county for the Chapel Hill library, stating "that 40 percent of users live in the county but outside of Chapel Hill." (He was unsuccessful.)
For 21 years the Friends of the Carrboro Branch Library have worked to bring a library to Carrboro. The Carrboro Branch Library opened in 1995, sharing space in the McDougle Schools' Media Center. The Friends have raised funds through book and bake sales to increase and improve programs and services.
It is time for the mayor, aldermen, and citizens of Carrboro to lead the charge for restoring library services, and providing a full-time library to southwest Orange County residents.
Contact the mayor, aldermen, Orange County commissioners, and your neighbors.
Without the support of everyone our library will have a slow death, and southwest Orange County will never have the library services it needs and deserves.
Submitted by Linda Browner on behalf of the Friends of the Carrboro Branch Library.