Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

Save the libraries meeting Thursday in Porter

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The Westchester Public Library Board takes its campaign to preserve local control of the library system on the road Thursday to the Town of Porter, where citizens there will learn what they stand to lose and how to voice support for WPL.

The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the town hall, 303 Franklin St. Last week in Chesterton more than 30 people attended a WPL public information session there, and pro-WPL petitions have been circulating.

Both a legislative study commission and a blue-ribbon committee appointed by the governor are studying ways to reform and restructure Indiana government. WPL is a township-based library system and serious study is being given to consolidating library districts and revamping or abolishing the township level of government.

Under the former scenario WPL could face mandated consolidation with the Porter County Library System although its officials, like those at WPL, have predicted more problems than advantages in a merger.

The Westchester Library Board has expressed fears that a loss of programming, services and even facilities might result. WPL operates Thomas Library in Chesterton and Hageman Library in Porter; in 2006 made the Library Service Center in Chesterton available to 1,632 people for community meetings; and established and operates the Westchester Township History Museum, also in Chesterton.

By comparison, the Porter County Library has one building each in Portage, Valparaiso, South Haven, Hebron and Kouts.

The prospect of service-hour cutbacks also are a concern for WPL officials as well as patrons attending the Oct. 11 public meeting. WPL’s Thomas Library is open on Sunday; Porter County’s library is closed Sunday. WPL patrons have access to a total of over 9,000 hours per year at its four sites, officials said.

In 2006, WPL facilities recorded a visitor count of 232,396 and a total 384,080 materials were circulated to both township and non-township residents. Last year the library website homepage had 175,122 visits. There were 14,634 reference questions answered, and the 31 public-access computers with the Internet were used 35,457 times by adults and 15,680 by juveniles.

The Library Board has stressed the many cultural, civic and programming opportunities it offers that could be affected in a merger. In 1995 WPL was the recipient of the Indiana Library Federation’s first state award for library programming.

WPL officials’ immediate concern as stated at several recent meetings is an Oct. 31 deadline for public comment before the Indiana Commission on Local Government Reform. WPL supporters are urged to contact the commission by email at lgreform@iu.edu, by voicemail at 317-261-3025 or by letter in care of the Center for Urban Policy and the Environment, 334 N. Senate Ave. Suite 300, Indianapolis IN 46204.

 

Posted 10/17/2007

 

 

 

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