Traverse Area District Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped is Endangered
My name is Bonnie Newhouse and I’ve been a resident of East Bay Township for the past 35 years. Forthe past 8 years, I’ve worked at Disability Network/Northern Michigan serving as both Information and Referral Coordinator and Accountant and speak on their behalf tonight. We serve the population that uses The Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped and have been following with interest your plans to downsize the local service. We learned at the last meeting that those plans may now include a compromise of services. Since the issue seems to be a cost-saving measure, I have spent some time analyzing the numbers to see why a program that has been in place for 40 years is being targeted for such a drastic change in service.
Over the past few weeks, I have been reviewing the information made available on your website and listening to the people young and old present their case to the Library Board in hopes that you will rethink the plan to change their services. I noted the last statement in the Traverse Area District Library 2012 Budget Resolution reads: Further, that the Library Director is authorized to reallocate detail line item amounts as listed on the attached budget so long as the amounts appropriated in the above categories are not exceeded. When I reviewed the Revenue and Expense Report for the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped for the year ended 12-31-11, I saw that the budget was $113,315 and year-to-date Actual was $104,274.77. This is a net difference of $9,040 UNDER BUDGET.
If the State Aid to the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped was projected to be $45,000 plus an additional $10,000 local, most would assume that the difference would come from an allocation from the 4 Million tax levy that comes into the Traverse Area District Library from tax revenues. Certainly to expect that a portion – less than 1 ½ % of our local tax levies would go to support the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped would not seem unreasonable. In fact, I fully expected that the Revenue line would reflect an expected contribution from the general fund and was quite surprised that it had been left out.
Another point I would like to address is the goal to make the Traverse Area District Library as technologically up-to-date as possible for the majority of the patrons. While we are moving upwards for them planning advanced technology such as self-checkout etc., we are stepping backward with our services to the Blind and Physically Handicapped. It reminds me of our first Sears store in Traverse City over 30 years ago. It started with a catalogue store and just a few items. If you found something in the catalogue that you wanted, they were happy to assist you in ordering it. For most of the items you wanted to purchase, you had to wait for them. I cannot imagine Sears taking a step backward in time without an outcry from the public.
All the while we are moving to step backward with service to the Blind and Physically Handicapped, we are increasing our efforts to market to other patrons. Our library is focusing on special programs for teens, seniors, mothers with children, caregivers and babies, Hispanics. Plans are already being made to have books for the Ukranian population that will be served in the new future library branch in Blair Township.
Frankly, I am astounded by the lack of compassion shown to the Blind and Physically Handicapped. Where are the funds in the budget for that staff to reach out to them? Rather than encourage them to come into the library, we are encouraging them to order by mail. Those among us who are visually and physically challenged need to be encouraged to go outside their homes and join the rest of the population in social interaction at the library.
As your Plan for the Future states: “Evolution and Adaptation are essential to ensure the diverse needs of our patrons are met and we continue to offer equal access to information.”
And In your Technology Plan for 2010-2013, you state:
“The Mission of Traverse Area District Library is to support the District’s diverse and changing population in its lifelong search for intellectual, recreational or vocational information and enrichment.”