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
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
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
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 email@example.com, 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.