Letter: ‘A choice between books and lightbulbs’

By on May 8, 2014

At the April 24 board meeting, the Sugar Grove Public Library Board voted to increase fees for the use of the meeting rooms in the library for all groups.

This has already generated a clamor in the community. The board is currently working on a budget that will maintain current hours, but cut back materials and programs which are under-used. Those are the only two areas that can be cut further. The building must be kept in good repair, heated and cooled, have the snow and ice removed in the winter, and the grass cut in the summer. All of these costs come out of the operating budget, and as those costs increase, less money is left for the books, movies, materials and programs that many people regard as the primary purpose of the library. Every time the lights are turned on in a meeting room, it costs money. Whether the group using the room is for-profit or not, staff time is used to arrange the appropriate furniture and technology, and provide additional cleaning if the room is not left in good condition.

On March 18, the Sugar Grove Public Library District had a referendum on the ballot asking to increase the tax rate for operating the library. It was resoundingly defeated. It was clear that even library users and supporters did not vote for it.

Some argue that libraries are obsolete, but a look at the usage numbers will show that is not the case. Fifty-five percent of the residents in the Sugar Grove Public Library District have a library card; 13,295 items were checked out in March.

Many people think the building is too big, but it is too late to do anything about that. Even if we close the doors and turn off the lights, the taxpayers are obligated for the next 10 years to repay the bonds issued to build the library.

The next board meeting is on Thursday, May 22, at 6 p.m. The public is welcome to attend and suggest ways to solve the financial problems at the library. As building maintenance issues arise, more material and service cuts are possible. Right now, it is a choice between books and light bulbs, because you can’t have both.

Louise Coffman
Sugar Grove Public Library treasurer, trustee