The 17-member Future of the Library Task Force approved its recommendations Tuesday, March 15, with a strong final statement that county commissioners’ first priority should be to increase funding for the library system to avoid closing any remaining community branches.
Task force members made final adjustments to the 63-page draft report and decided that the report’s executive summary should emphasize the need to increase library funding to a level comparable with other library systems Charlotte-Mecklenburg compares itself to.
Rather than recommend a dedicated tax to support the library system in the future, the task force recommended county commissioners base their support on the median per capita support of found in six to 13 other comparable library systems.
The task force found the Charlotte-Mecklenburg system lags $2.05 to $2.82 per capita behind the median of those other systems. If county commissioners restored enough funding to raise Charlotte-Mecklenburg to the median of the other systems, that would translate to $1.8 million to $2.5 million.
If, however, county officials don’t provide the extra funding, the task force adopted a recommendation to preserve the Main Library and ImaginOn, restore hours at all regional libraries and protect community branches in at-risk neighborhoods. Under that model, if the library system doesn’t get an increase, the task force report says five to six branch libraries would have to close.
Those branches, which also are closest to a regional branch, are: Cornelius, Davidson, Myers Park, Plaza Midwood and Hickory Grove.
According to the latest projections, the library system would need an additional $28,500 to keep the Matthews’ branch open, but library officials have said gauging the budget that precisely is difficult.
Task Force Chairman Dr. Jim Woodward will present the task force’s report to a joint meeting of county commissioners and the library system’s board of trustees on March 21 at 6 p.m. in room 267 of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center. The meeting is open to the public.
The library system will post the task force report at its website www.plcmc.lib.nc.us.
Several county and library officials took time at the beginning of the task force’s last meeting to praise its members for the time and dedication they brought to the task. Jennifer Roberts, chairwoman of the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners; County Manager Harry Jones; Bob Sink, vice chairman of the library system’s board of trustees; and Vick Phillips, interim chief executive officer of the library system, praised task force members for producing a report that makes meaningful recommendations for the library’s future.