Thursday, February 26, 2009

Hamline Library Update

The neighbors of the local library are putting up a fight:
Support for St. Paul's Hamline Library ran red on Tuesday night.

Red pants, pullovers, shirts, scarves and, of course, bright red "Save Our Library" buttons speckled the crowd of at least 270 that showed up for the second — and last, for now — of Mayor Chris Coleman's public meetings to talk about drastic cuts proposed in city services to fill a $44 million budget hole over the next two years.

"We wear red to show the library is vital to our community," said Julie GebbenGreen, who said she walks the two blocks from her Hamline-Midway home with her three children "three to five times a week."
Since it is one of the smallest libraries, it finds itself at the lower end of some misleading statistics:
Hamline, the third least visited of the city's 13 libraries, is potentially on the chopping block. Library Director Melanie Huggins recommended shuttering Hamline, reducing library hours everywhere and slashing the system's materials budget after Coleman requested that all city department heads come up with ways to cut their 2009 budgets by 14 percent.
But raw numbers can be misleading, as pointed out by a poster in the local St. Paul Issues Forum:
There are fourteen libraries in Saint Pauls library system. The Hamline-Midway library has consistently ranked in the top half related to attendance at juvenile and adult events over the past three years. Use of its meeting rooms is in the top quartile of all Saint Paul libraries. In fact, the Hamline-Midway library does not rank last in any usage category.
And where they do rank towards the bottom, it is not due to usage, but to size:
the Hamline-Midway library ranks 12th out of 14 in internet use. The ranking, however, does not adjust for the number of computers available at each library or the fact that the Hamline-Midway library is not open as many hours as other libraries. Of course the Rondo Community library is ranked first and the West 7th library is ranked last, because the Rondo Community library has the most computers of any other library in the entire system and the West 7th library has the least number of computers in the entire system. When the number of computers and hours are taken into consideration, the internet usage at the Hamline-Midway library is comparable and often higher than the computer usage at other libraries.

Based on the annual budget and square footage of the Hamline-Midway library in comparison to its circulation numbers, it is actually one of the most efficient and inexpensive libraries in the city.
Like I mentioned in my earlier post, my neighborhood is the ONLY one facing the closing of its closet library AND closest Rec Center. I can stomach the loss of the Rec Center during these times of budget strife. There are others close enough for my kids to adjust to, but the loss of the library would be crushing to our community. During times of economic tumult, these sources of learning should be as protected as the staffing our our public safety units. Time to look elsewhere.

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