A hard blow for this public library system, and a disturbing trend:
On Thursday, March 18, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Board of Trustees approved a plan to lay off 148 employees and close 12 library branches in order to absorb a $2 million reduction in funding from Mecklenburg County.
The branches that will close under the plan are: Beatties Ford Road, Belmont Center, Carmel, Checkit Outlet, Cornelius, Hickory Grove, Independence Regional, Mint Hill, Morrison Regional, Myers Park, Scaleybark, and Sugar Creek.
It will take approximately two weeks to complete the closings, with the selected branches closing their doors at the end of the business day on Saturday, April 3.
Prior to the board’s decision, several community members made appeals to save those libraries. Friends of the Library Chair Harriet Smith was one of those citizens and she issued a challenge to the community to raise the $2 million dollars, or at least a significant amount, in order to avoid lay-offs and library closings for this fiscal year.
Contributions received by March 24, 2010 will help lessen the severity of immediate library service reductions, and even after that date all contributions will continue to help us provide the best possible library services to the more than 17,000 adults and children we serve each day.
Library Board of Trustees chair Robin Branstrom cautioned that she did not want to get library employees’ hopes up, however, she suggested that the termination notice letters to laid-off employees be changed to add the phrase, “unless circumstances change.”
Library administration cautions that even if the funds are raised to save Charlotte Mecklenburg libraries through June 30, there is no guarantee for fiscal year 2011. There is also no guarantee that employee positions and those libraries that were set to be closed will be saved for this fiscal year (2010).
Library closing decisions were made based on the overall cost of library operations, usage levels, proximity to other branches and library size.
Phone calls will be made to those 148 staff identified in the lay-off process, followed by official letters. The library will use its Reduction in Force (RIF) policy to determine layoffs.
In addition to fewer locations, hours and staff, library customers will notice other budget impacts, including less frequent building maintenance, more limited technology resources, and longer wait times for books and other materials.
The Library Board of Trustees voted at their regular meeting on March 18 at 12 p.m. in the Francis Auditorium after hearing comments from members of the public. County Manager Harry Jones met with the board prior to the meeting at 11:30 a.m.
To keep the public aware of budget updates as they occur, the Library has created a special budget page on its website. Go to www.cmlibrary.org, click on “About Us,” and then “Budget” to stay informed.
Those interested in making a financial contribution can visit www.cmlibrary.org/donatenow.
Those wishing to volunteer or learn other ways to support the library can go to www.cmlibrary.org/support.
Decisions on how Mecklenburg County taxpayer dollars are allocated to Libraries and other County-funded agencies are made by the Board of County Commissioners. Any citizen may contact their County Commissioner by visiting www.charmeck.org.