Library shift saves funds, avoids budget reductions

Photo by James Mitchell

Southgate’s Veterans Memorial Library Summer Reading program kicked off Wednesday with Skippy and Dave, a music and ventriloquism act featuring Dave Parker of Dynamic School Assemblies. More than 70 children attended the first installment of this year’s program, “A World of Readers,” featuring youth literature from around the globe

Sunday Times Newspapers

SOUTHGATE — Sometimes the big changes are hardly noticeable. Friday the Southgate Veterans Memorial Library will undergo a rather significant change; the good news is that everything will remain the same.

In an era of reduced budgets for schools, public safety and other branches of local government, status quo at the library can be considered a victory, Library Director Joyce Farkas said.

“This is a win-win for the citizens of Southgate,” she said. “We get to keep the doors open.”

The library was not in danger of closing, but last year the city recognized that overhead expenses — approximately $200,000 over a several-year period— were becoming a strain during times of shrinking municipal budgets. City Administrator Brandon Fournier said that he was asked why the library was part of the Wayne County Library system.

“From a practical standpoint, we were a city library,” Fournier said. Officially, however, the facility was under the Wayne umbrella, a system fighting its own budget battles with little left to offer its member libraries. A library reorganization committee began meeting last year to study various models and operations to determine the pros and cons for Southgate of each approach. At the end of the day, it seemed that a city library was most appropriate,” Fournier said.

There are several models under which libraries operate: Municipal, within a district or as part of a county consortium. When the Veterans Memorial Library opened in 1966, Fournier said it wouldn’t have been possible without the services of the then-flourishing Wayne County system.

“The county had a robust budget at the time,” Fournier said. “We probably wouldn’t have been able to start a library without them.”

Fifty years on, Wayne County lost much of its financial luster, and Southgate began to feel they were giving more than they were getting from the arrangement. Veterans Memorial Library, located at 14680 Dix-Toledo Road, is adjacent to City Hall and even before the change of administration has been effectively a city-run program.

Other than two professional librarians, who retired from Wayne and were rehired by Southgate, the books, facility and programs were already under the city umbrella.

An ordinance was proposed and adopted by city officials, and as of July 1 the library will officially be administered by the City of Southgate, a change transparent to visitors yet critical for staff, programs and services.

In terms of broader support, the Southgate Veterans Memorial Library remains a member of The Library Network, a public cooperative of 65 libraries providing shared services where library cards fare welcome at any Library Network facility.

“It’s almost too good to be true,” Fournier said, as the reduced overhead and existing 1-mil financing allows the library to move forward without any loss of services or staff.

Farkas said that most visitors to the library will not notice the change.

“The patrons will see absolutely no difference,”she said. “It’s a very seamless transition. Everything will remain at the same level we had last year; not every library can say that.”