An area library that sustained itself for 54 years without local tax dollars must now implore the community to open its pocketbook.
The Evergreen Community Library in Metamora will ask voters to approve a 0.4-mill, five-year operational levy on the May 8 ballot. The approximately $90,000 generated annually would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $14 a year. It also would permit the library at 253 Maple St. to maintain present services and possibly expand its technology.
It’s the first time since the library partnered with the Evergreen Local Schools district in 1964 that financial assistance from the public has become necessary. It’s the only library in the county that, until now, had remained self-sufficient through its funding mechanisms.
“We’ve been very frugal and good at money management,” said Shannon Loar, the levy’s campaign chair and a Library Board of Trustees member. “That is a reflection of great stewardship of the library. (But) we felt it was necessary for us to move forward in the community as we see funding shrinking at the state level and beyond.”
The levy was approved unanimously by the library board Nov. 15, and the school board Dec. 11, following a three- to five-year projection of the facility’s needs. Funding would begin in 2019.
Loar said the levy is necessary, in part, due to state reductions in financial assistance and a drop in enrollment at Evergreen schools of about 100 students since 2015. The school district bases library funding on student counts within the district.
Loar said the levy would cover operational expenses, materials, and programming. She said it “will keep us relevant and sustainable within the community. The library is a community hub, not just a book depository anymore. We felt this was the next step to provide exactly what our community deserves from a library.”
Without support from a levy, the library will likely face reduced hours and staff, either the need to cut programs or charge a fee for them, and the elimination or reduction of both school and daycare outreach and building and property maintenance.
There would also be no expansion into the latest technology, leading that area of the library to become stagnant and irrelevant, Loar said. She said many community members rely on the library for its technological resources.
“The numbers are high in participation, so there’s a clear need in the community,” she said. She included countless instances in which Evergreen school students bring their school-issued laptops to the library and residents attend to take advantage of the facility’s WiFi connection.
Levy revenue could allow the library to purchase 3-D printers requested by patrons, and partner with the school district to provide guests with “hotspot” devices on loan that would allow the library to become a WiFi repository in their homes.
ECL Director Jane Dominique said that’s a growing trend among libraries, and one among other technological advances she’d like to provide locally.
“The role of the public library keeps changing…and you have to embrace the change. Libraries are going to be a technology lending resource,” she said. “We are really becoming a library/community center. That’s how broad our services have become.”
Without levy support that technological support is unlikely, and established programs at the library would take a hit, Dominique said. She said that would be devastating to the library’s school outreach programs which comprise an integral component of the facility’s services.
“We’re at that point that we would have to reevaluate our program levels. There’s a lot of expense that people don’t realize that libraries have,” she said. “The pie keeps getting smaller, and there are only so many places you can cut anymore.”
Dominique said citizens hesitant to foot tax money for the first time should visit the library and see what it offers.
“We want them to make an educated choice when they go to the polling stations to see what we really are,” she said. “We’re a fabulous community, and we’re a valuable resource, and I hope the community members see that.”
Evergreen Community Library will kick off a marketing campaign for the levy this month. Loar said since the library services communities in both Fulton and Lucas counties the ballot will be available in precincts in both.
“We want to find out, will the community support this library when it comes down to tax dollars, to meet the needs going forward,” she said.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.