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July 28, 2014

Bloomfield Hills to decide on library contract renewal

By Tiffany Esshaki
C & G Staff Writer

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Bloomfield Hills to decide on library contract renewal
On Aug. 5, Bloomfield Hills residents will decide whether the city should continue to contract for services from Baldwin Public Library in downtown Birmingham.

BLOOMFIELD HILLS — It was a small but engaged crowd July 23 at Bloomfield Hills City Hall. They were there to have a cup of coffee and chat about the Baldwin Public Library — and whether they still want to be a part of it.

On the Aug. 5 primary election ballot, Bloomfield Hills residents will be asked to renew a 0.39-mill contract with BPL to continue utilizing its services. Guests were able to learn about numerous programs, including BPL’s popular summer reading program, concerts, workshops, and other events and various classes.

Of course, library staff boasted about the collection of more than 140,000 books and a selection of electronic books for e-readers and tablets that’s in the thousands and growing by the day.

BPL Director Doug Koschik was at the meet-and-greet event to tell residents about all of the services and programming available to Bloomfield Hills residents.

The city contracted with BLP in July of 2011 to provide residents with library services at the downtown Birmingham library. A second contract, with some minor revisions, was signed this past June. Without a yes vote from residents Aug. 5, that contract will expire and Bloomfield Hills will no longer have access to the facility.

“We’ve been doing our best these past three years to listen to you, and we hope we’re serving you well,” said Koschik.

The basic facts of the millage aren’t so different from the original contract. In the first year, Bloomfield Hills would pay $278,437.84 to BPL, which is up about $10,000 over the original contract, for inflation, officials said. The previous contract was for three years, while the new proposal would be for six years of service, ending in 2020.

Currently, close to 647 households in Bloomfield Hills have at least one cardholder for BPL.  Some in the audience, however, wondered if that could potentially decrease.

“As we all know, the library world is changing. My kids are in grad school, and it’s all digital,” said Bloomfield Hills City Commissioner Sarah McClure. “I see in 20 years, there won’t be books, and I say that as someone who collects historic books.”

Koschik acknowledged McClure’s concerns, saying the landscape of the library industry is indeed changing, but noted that library services will still be necessary in communities as “knowledge centers.”

“The library of the future will be less of a warehouse of materials and more of a gathering space,” he said.

His description was supported by Bloomfield Hills resident Larry Neal, director for the Clinton-Macomb Public Library and president of the Public Library Association.

“Who wants to be a hermit in the Internet age?” asked Neal, explaining that libraries will be needed to assist community members in a range of demographics with reading and media materials, but also for social purposes.

“It begins with kids and summer reading. It’s hard to imagine they wouldn’t have that same experience as a kid, going to get their first library card in a noncommercial environment that’s not trying to sell them something.”

Koschik explained to the crowd that since Birmingham residents turned down a $21.5 million bond proposal May 6 to renovate the library, he and the Library Board have been looking for ways to update the facility for a smaller price tag. Part of that would be to redo the layout to accommodate groups for studying and collaborative work.

Since contracting municipalities such as Bloomfield Hills, Bingham Farms and Beverly Hills don’t have any ownership of the library building, Koschik assured residents that no cost would be passed on to Bloomfield Hills households.

Bloomfield Hills Mayor Patricia Hardy, who also serves as the city’s liaison to BPL, stressed her support for the library. So, too, did former Mayor David Kellett, who arrived with young Jack Kellett, student representative on the Library Board.

“The practicality of it is the city of Bloomfield Hills must have library services,” said David Kellet. “This is just pure common sense. Anyone who doesn’t vote for it is nuts. Their property values will go down.”

Resident Mary Ensroth was in the audience that day, saying she doesn’t utilize the library as much as she’d like to, knowing BPL services are available to her.

“I went on the tour of the library, because I wanted to know about it even though I couldn’t participate in voting,” she said, referencing the May 6 bond proposal which could only be voted on by Birmingham residents. “I learned about the ins and outs of (the library). It’s very extensive, and I felt admiration and grateful for all they do.”

To learn more about the Bloomfield Hills library millage renewal, visit www.bloomfieldhillsmi.net.

To see the exact language of the millage proposal for the Aug. 5 election, go to www.candgnews.com and click on the Voter Guide.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Tiffany Esshaki at tesshaki@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1095.