Library will stay open until Aug. 2 ballot question

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published May 18, 2011


Although the Troy Public Library will remain open until voters decide a five-year, 0.7-mill dedicated library tax in August, some services will not be available in the interim.

On May 16, the City Council voted to place the millage before voters, and in a separate action, council voted to fund the library on a 55-hour basis until then. Councilmen Martin Howrylak opposed both measures. And Wade Fleming opposed the first action.

Howrylak said he preferred a general millage question on a November ballot to avoid the cost of a special election. He noted that a pollster the city hired to conduct a survey on what services voters were willing to pay for said that voter turnout would be greater in November. The soonest taxes would be collected in either case would be on the winter tax bill.

Council member Robin Beltramini said families that have children and that want to move do so in the summer. She said a settled question on the library issue would serve to influence more people to move to the city. She noted that the amount of lost property taxes without an influx of new homebuyers would offset the cost of a special election.

Some library services will be affected in the interim.

While the Troy Public Library remains a member of the Suburban Library Cooperative with 20 libraries in Macomb County, which allows Troy library cardholders to check out materials from libraries in the program, patrons must go to those libraries to get the materials, rather than pick them up at the Troy Public Library, as they could in the past.

This is because the Troy library cannot participate in the Michigan Electronic Library Catalog, or MelCat, system — due to the uncertainty surrounding the Troy library — and Troy cannot interloan from it.

However, Troy Library Director Cathleen Russ said that if the Troy Public Library drops below state-specified minimum standards for service — is open less than 55 hours a week — libraries in the cooperative would not extend borrowing privilege to Troy residents.

Administrators for MelCat had given the Troy Public Library a March 15 deadline for Troy residents to place holds through the system.

“MelCat wanted to make sure that other libraries’ material was returned before the June 30 date that had been set for TPL’s closing; I wanted to make sure that materials that TPL had loaned to others were returned by that June 30 date, as well,” Russ said.

“Because the status of the library has been in limbo, TPL has been unable to rejoin MelCat and reinstate the holds service. Once the library’s status has been decided, I will contact MelCat and see if they will allow us to rejoin now, even if there is a millage in August. If not, then TPL would rejoin MelCat as soon as they would allow, assuming successful passage of a millage. If a millage failed, obviously TPL could not rejoin MelCat.”

Troy residents may not reserve items in Troy’s collection, but must go in person to secure the material.

“Until we know for sure that that closure is not going to occur, we can’t restart many services,” Russ said. “I do not think it is fair or kind to put patrons through a ‘today we can, tomorrow we can’t, and we don’t know about the day after tomorrow’ scenario. That is confusing, to say the least.”

Also, in the interim, the Clawson Public Library, the Baldwin Public Library in Birmingham and the Bloomfield Township Public Library have ended reciprocal agreements with Troy, which means residents may not check out materials from those libraries.

Troy residents may check out items from the Rochester Hills Public Library, which has tentatively extended reciprocity, but that would be rescinded if the Troy library drops below 55 hours a week.

Also, there are fewer computers available for public use, a reduction of 10, for a current total of 43 in the technology room, four in the teen area, 12 in youth services, and eight computers with access to the library card catalog and databases.

Staff levels are also down — to five full-time staff members, down from six last year, and 55 part-time staff, down from 64 last year.

If voters approve the millage, it shouldn’t take too long to resume business as usual, officials said.

Russ said database subscriptions could be restarted fairly quickly.

“Reinstating reciprocal borrowing agreements may take a little time, depending on what those libraries wish to do,” Russ said. “I don’t know how long it would take to re-establish MelCat privileges, but they are aware of TPL’s situation, and I am sure that they would be willing to work with us and reinstate those privileges quickly. I am very pleased at the support we’ve received from our vendors — they have been very flexible and kind during this time, and I am sure they would work with me to return things to normal as quickly as possible.”

The library will remain open 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday.