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Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2008 05:20 pm

Spared

Lincoln Library escapes chopping block, looks to future

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PHOTO BY AMANDA ROBERT

During a special meeting of the Springfield City Council last week, aldermen slashed the city’s fiscal year 2009 budget — five firefighters here, five policemen there, and all the city’s food supplies, furniture, and gasoline thrown out for good measure — but Lincoln Library was again spared from the chopping block. Ward 6 Ald. Mark Mahoney had proposed shutting down the library’s west and southeast branches and using the estimated $400,000 savings to bolster programming and services at the main library, at 326 S. Seventh St. Aldermen have frequently heard from the city’s administration over the past few months that Lincoln Library’s portion of Springfield’s property-tax monies continues to shrink as police and fire pensions gobble up increasingly heftier shares. But after considerable public outcry, Mahoney scrapped his plan — at least for now. He says more time is needed to weigh the issue and is instead supporting a recently approved $100,000 study that will take a look at city services — including Lincoln Library — and how they are provided. “There hasn’t been much innovation in city services as part of this administration,” Mahoney says. “This is one way to highlight it and say that there are better options out there.
“I think the library is part of that.”
Nancy Huntley, the library’s executive director, agrees that further study is just what the city of Springfield and the library board need. A task force released a strategic plan for Lincoln Library in November, and Huntley says in the coming months she’ll be able to research its proposed ideas to identify the most cost-effective and efficient model for the community.
“Now that it’s been decided that the branches will still be part of the library structure, we will be looking at them this year and seeing what we can do differently or better in terms of service,” Huntley says. “We’re catching our breaths now.”
The library’s west branch, located at 1251 W. Washington St., is across the street from Sacred Heart-Griffin High School and within walking distance of other schools. Its southeast branch, located at 2500 South Grand Ave., is close to residences. Huntley says these branches were first established to serve these growing neighborhoods, but she declines to say whether keeping them open is in the city’s best interest. “I just can’t say at this point what is the best service model for the city of Springfield,” she says. “It needs to be examined and investigated, and the library board and citizens will look into that.”
But for now, she says, Lincoln Library will continue to operate as it has for the past four years. The services, operating hours, and staff will not change at any of its three locations.

Contact Amanda Robert at arobert@illinoistimes.com.
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