Library Prepares to Close Snow Branch, Grapples With Future
Without adding to the millage, library commissioners say Dearborn's Esper and Bryant branches will likely close their doors as well.
The Dearborn Public Library system has begun preparing for the permanent closure of one of its branches.
Snow Library, which was picked by city officials as the one branch out of four libraries in the city to close, will not be shuttered immediately. Instead, libraries director Maryanne Bartles said at the library commission’s Friday afternoon meeting, the process will likely be a gradual phase-out starting within the next few weeks.
“I would like to propose that through the end of summer, we keep the branch open through Labor Day,” Bartles said, “but start the decommissioning service now.”
But beyond that, as the city debates language for a ballot proposal to levy another 3.5 mills on residents, the future of Dearborn’s remaining libraries hangs in the balance.
Closure or Mothballed?
Library commission chair Marcel Pultorak said Friday that it is not clear whether the city intends to close Snow indefinitely or simply mothball it, as is being done with two city pools, and leave its future up for discussion pending a ballot proposal to increase millages.
However, both he and Bartles said it’s likely the former option. It’s a fact they’d like to face rather than grapple with the uncertainty of a temporary closure.
“It’s like doing an amputation,” Pultorak said. “It’s better to cut off the whole limb rather than do it a piece at a time. If we are going to close it–and it looks like we are–we need to do that in an orderly fashion.”
“I’m going to approach it as if the building is closed,” she told commissioners, adding that she’d be drafting a timeline within the next week to inventory Snow’s circulation and furniture and begin to move the materials into the Henry Ford Centennial Library.
How the phase-out will affect regular users of the library, however, is still unclear.
Solutions for Funding the Libraries’ Future
Though the library commission has accepted the closure of Snow, discussion continued on ways in which the library system can continue as a whole.
Without additional library millage beyond the “essential services” millage being proposed by the city, the commission said the closure of Dearborn’s Esper and Bryant branches is likely, leaving only the Henry Ford Centennial Library.
“Looking at all these projections the city has done … 3.5 mills is going to save this library,” Pultorak said of HFCL. “It’s not going to save the branches.”
One possibility is that the city council could levy one mill without a vote by residents under Section 1 of Library Law. But that option, Pultorak said, is lacking city council support due to the fact that they just added 1.62 in the current city budget and are looking to get voter support for another 3.5 mills on November’s ballot.
Another option, under Section 10A, would consist of turning the system into a city library by a vote of the people, which would give the commission the power to levy up to two mills. Under that system, the library commission would have to be elected and would operate separately than other city departments.
That option would need to be brought about by a citizen petition and would cause complications due to factors such as the fact that the HFCL shares city-run parking space and utilities with the police station and courthouse.
Whatever the solution, Pultorak added, the Dearborn Library system and the city need to figure it out fast.
“We don’t have time to let grass grow under our feet on this,” he said. “This next budget season is going to be under our feet before we know it. I would like to have a series of meetings with the public during the fall perhaps … and come up with some strategic plans going forward.”
No plans are in place as to when those meetings will be, but the commission and Bartles plan to meet with the city council over the next few months to determine how to secure the future of the library system.
One thing is for sure, though: “The mayor said Dearborn will always have a library,” Pultorak said. “He will work with commission to plan library services in the future.”