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Bloomfield Hills asked to renew contract with Baldwin Library

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published July 7, 2020

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BLOOMFIELD HILLS — If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s the value of staying home with a good book.

But do residents of Bloomfield Hills still want to continue to get their books, e-books, subscriptions, programming and other services from the Baldwin Public Library, or is it time to close the book on the city’s contract with Birmingham’s library?

Voters will decide Aug. 4 if they want the city to replace the expiring library millage of 0.3766 mills, passed in 2014, with a new millage of up to 0.52 mills per year for up to six years. That’s around 52 cents for every $1,000 of taxable value. For a home with a taxable of $200,000, that’s an annual tax cost of around $104.

Keen accountants will notice the proposal is a smidge higher than the last contract. Yes, but not really, said Bloomfield Hills City Manager David Hendrickson. The proposal allows for up to 0.52 mills to account for inflation, but if there’s a significant taxable value decrease, the mill rate could drop, too.

“It is primarily in place to protect the city’s budget if there was an unexpected and dramatic decline in property values. We do not anticipate this happening,” Hendrickson said in an email.

The last time the library millage was renewed by Bloomfield Hills residents, it passed with close to 70% of the vote. Before that election, library staffers hosted a meet-and-greet at Bloomfield Hills City Hall to answer questions from residents about what they would get for their money.

That didn’t happen this time around, of course, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Rebekah Craft, the associate director of the library, said it’s been hard promoting the millage amid a national public health crisis.

But the reasons from before still stand, she said.

“Home values increase in communities with thriving libraries,” Craft explained in an email. “Early literacy initiatives that libraries provide, like our story times and 1,000 Books before Kindergarten program, help ensure children are well prepared to enter school. And our annual summer reading program helps to keep kids reading while school is not in session and helps prevent some of the ‘summer slide’ that teachers see each fall. Plus, librarians provide professional reference services, referral services and computer literacy training for people of all ages.”

She added that, as of now, around half of all Bloomfield Hills households have at least one cardholder at the library, resulting in close to 20,000 items checked out by Hills residents last year.

“If the contract between Baldwin and the city of Bloomfield Hills expires, Baldwin would offer only very limited services to Bloomfield Hills residents,” Craft continued. “For example, Bloomfield Hills residents would be able to enter the library and use materials on-site, but they could not be checked out or anything or use interlibrary loan.”

Residents would also lose services to homebound library patrons and access to the library’s e-resources like downloadable audiobooks, e-books and subscription databases.

To learn more about the Baldwin Public Library, visit baldwinlib.org.

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