Charlotte Mecklenburg Branches Saved; Fundraising Aims to Rehire Staff
In an emergency meeting on the morning of March 24, the board of the Charlotte Mecklenburg (N.C.) Library rescinded its controversial week-old order to close half the system branches and lay off 148 staff members. Instead, trustees unanimously approved an alternative plan that will keep all 24 branches in operation at a reduced schedule; lay off up to 84 employees; cut salaries of retained staff members between 5% and 20%; and drastically reduce services such as storytimes, classes on job searching and technology, and book clubs. “The public has asked for locations, rather than level of service,” Brown said in the March 24 Charlotte Observer.
“There is no easy solution to this problem,” library Director Charles M. Brown told a capacity crowd that packed into the Main Library meeting room before the vote, noting that “the bulk of the reductions would be borne by our staff” no matter how trustees chose to take $2 million from the FY2010 budget and return it to Mecklenburg County as the county commission ordered a week earlier. Library officials emphasized that the revised plan had already factored in more than $195,000 donated in a one-week drive to reverse all the cuts, and Brown assured the crowd that any further funds raised would be used to rehire terminated staff.
In a fitting continuation of the save-libraries campaigns that sprung up on Twitter and Facebook after the board’s March 17 vote, the emergency meeting was live-tweeted by the library, the Charlotte Observer, and a host of concerned individuals. Tweeters reported how tears sprung into the eyes of staff members who attended the meeting as the community expressed its love for the library and made fervent promises to continue raising funds. “This is just the beginning,” declared Friends President Harriet Smith, whose March 17 fundraising challenge had set the advocacy wheels in motion. Among the efforts announced was the distribution of library donation envelopes at several area churches during March 28 services.
Unfortunately, this may be the beginning of an even larger crisis, officials repeatedly warned community members. The Mecklenburg County Commission has asked the library to tentatively prepare for an FY2011 contingency budget of $17.5 million, which is 50% less than FY2010 funding after this year’s cuts are taken into consideration.
American Libraries, Wed, 03/24/2010 - 12:36