Saturday, April 16, 2011

Detroit Public Library's Downward Spiral

Detroit library could close most of its branches. (Detroit News, 4/15/2011)

Excerpt:   The Detroit Public Library could close most of its neighborhood branches and lay off more than half of its workers because of an $11 million shortfall caused by plunging tax collections.

One month after laying off 80 workers, library administrators said deeper cuts are needed and outlined three options: Shut 18 of 23 branches and lay off 191 of the remaining 333 workers; 15 branches and 163 workers; or 12 branches and 135 workers.

Whatever course commissioners who oversee the system choose in May, residents in an economically challenged city with a functional illiteracy rate of 47 percent are likely to suffer.

"We are really running out of options to maintain the viability of the system," said Anthony Adams, a library commissioner. "I don't see too many ways to avoid not doing something draconian. Every day we don't act is a day we are digging a deeper hole for ourselves."

The proposed cuts are the latest casualty for a city struggling with plunging property values and population. Largely funded through a 4.63-mill property tax, the system faces a revenue shortfall of 20 percent per year until at least 2015, administrators estimate. The tax that generated $40 million in 2010 is expected to produce only $14 million by 2015.

The list of targeted branches stretches throughout the city and could force residents to drive several miles to one. The most severe option leaves the entire northeast side of Detroit without a branch. And that's outraged users who have been flocking to the system in part because of the economy. Visits rose 20 percent since 2007 to 4.9 million a year

Related articles:
Library reduces staff by 20%. (3/4/2011)
Budget woes. (2/5/2011)

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