Friday March 19, 2010 | Mecklenburg Budget Crisis

March 18, 2010 at 3:34 pm | Posted in Coming Up | 28 Comments

A look at budget problems within Mecklenburg County. The Mecklenburg County library system announced the closing of 12 branches and layoffs of 1/3 of the system’s staff. And the cuts for the library won’t stop there. Library and county officials join us to talk about the budget situation for the rest of this year and budget planning for next year, both for the library and for other county entities.
Charles Brown
Director, Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County
Hyong YiDirector of Management and Budget for Mecklenburg County
Jennifer Roberts Chair, Board of Mecklenburg County Commissioners
Karen Bentley
Mecklenburg County Commissioner, District 1

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  1. Twitter users have been trying to organize a donation drive and according to the CML Twitter the board agreed to allow some donation to go towards salaries:

    Please ask Charles Brown for more information regarding donations and if they can be used to make a difference in the layoffs. If the shortfall through June 2010 is only $2mil, then it would only take $5 donations from 400,000 people to make up the difference – and employers often match charitable donation.

    Can the people do anything to make this better, because we certainly want to do so.

    I’ll be listening tomorrow morning, as always.

  2. I had to take a deep breath after I heard the news of library closings across the county. I worked at a library as a part-time job in High School and have a strong allegiance to public libraries ever since. As the needs grow, it so disheartening to see resources such as public libraries, which help communities growth, bond and thrive, begin disappearing. Libraries are a foundation of the community narrative and infrastructure. Citizens are always able to share a fond memory related to a public library. Just ask… Moreover, the dedicate staffs of these libraries can be equated to the life-long teachers in our public schools. These librarians have seen, and been a part, of families growing and changing. My heart is heavy and I feel we have not seen the community impacts yet to come when these social gathering places close their doors.

  3. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by ErinSuttonWFAE: Spread the word! Charles Brown on @CharlotteTalks tomorrow to talk budget and #CMlibrary closings. Add comments:

  4. Please ask Mr. Brown to explain how the libraries to be closed were chosen, specifically why BOTH Myers Park and Morrison Regional branches were closed. Morrison is one of the busiest in the county. Does the county assume that people in more affluent neighborhoods don’t need a library?

  5. Such sad,disheartening news, I am wondering, why not reduce days to 3 a week and cut pay by 1/2, call on people to help staff …let’s get creative. I would help 2-4 hours a week on my days off, ask the folks who go to the library…WE CAN DO THIS !

    • You are right! But no one has thought to think creatively!

  6. This is a truly distressing development! When looking at the map of the library locations it is unbelievable that the Regional libraries have to go as well as 10 others! Morrison, Independence, and the brand new Hickory Grove libraries are the only libraries in their areas. Independence Regional library provides an important place for the school kids in the area to do their work – East Meck H.S. is across the street. The librarians at Indepence library told us last night that the first they heard about their library closing was from Facebook and the local television news. Please find out if we donate to the fund to help the libraries if the money will actually go to the ones who need it and not to the big salaries of the library board members. Thank you.

    • Thank you for your comments. All funds collected will go to help all libraries. If by a miracle of human effort, $2 million dollars is raised by March 26, it is possible that the closings will not occur and library staff will keep their jobs. If the money is not raised in time, the funds collected will go toward helping the remaining libraries in their efforts to serve the community.

      Again, thank you for your comments and support.

  7. I teach an ESL class at the local YMCA. Just two weeks ago, a staff member from the Cornelius branch of the public library came to talk with our class about services that the library provides for Spanish speakers. None of the students in my class had ever been to the library before–but by the end of this information session, more than half of the students had signed up for library cards! It breaks my heart that these members of our community, who have just learned that the doors of the library are open to them, will now go to the Cornelius branch and find its doors shuttered. Surely, we as a community can do better.

  8. Sharing the above-the-fold real estate with the library disaster story in this morning’s paper is the report of Michael Jordan’s many-million-dollar purchase of the Bobcats. What a great opportunity for Mr. Jordan to demonstrate his commitment to the city that will support his new team and further enrich him! Come on, Mr. Jordan! All it would take is $2 million out of your change jar to elevate you higher in this community than anyone wearing tennis shoes and dribbling a basketball could ever leap!

  9. End Recessions and Depressions — Free our money from its issuance in debt


  10. I think closing the libraries and such deep cuts for the schools is myopic and it shows the lack of imagination from these county politicians.

    Why didn’t they start by cutting their own salaries and benefits? That will show they are serious and giving examples of other counties facing the same problem around is country is like comparing apples to oranges

  11. This is such sad news. I don’t know what to say except that it is amazing, with so much business development ongoing in the Charlotte area over the past few years, that we as a community can’t afford to adequately fund our libraries and schools.

  12. So, you’re telling me that a library was built and other renovated last year when ‘we’ should have know we could not afford them!!!! I’M SO SICK OF POLITICIANS AND GOVERNMENT!

  13. I understand that there are 5 Directors under Mr. Brown. Do they still have jobs while 150 please are losing there jobs

  14. Why not have a call for volunteers?

  15. Native North Carolinians and Charlotteans will be pleased to know that most of the people being laid off from these libraries are recent transplants, Yankees, foreigners/immigrants, etc.

    To be hired for NC government positions in the future, people ought to have lived in the county or state for AT LEAST 10-15 years, with a clear preference given to NATIVES and not the neo-carpetbaggers who have infested our area.

  16. I have to wonder what factors were used to make this decision. This leaves no libraries on the East side of Charlotte — a vast wasteland from Matthews to University beyond the Midwood-Plaza branch.

    Has the East side been entirely abandoned, along with Eastland Mall? Are there interesting demographics at work in this decision?

    And right before tax season? What about the tax assistance at the libraries?

    I also have to wonder if this is some kind of blackmail attempt by the county, placing a valuable service on the chop to save something in the background. I think it will backfire.

    Sports arenas alone do not make a metro “World Class”. How about an educated citizenry?

    -sarcasm on- Just remember, there is always a privatized version of the library, called bookstores. If you can pay, you can afford education. -sarcasm off-

  17. I am very upset over the closure over 12 library branches (including my neighborhood branch, Scaleybark)due to “Budget Cuts” in the guise of BAD MANAGEMENT. Closing libraries are disenfranchising residents on all socioeconomic levels to make them further isolated from society. I have been living in Charlotte for almost ten years and never experienced such overt misplaced priorities on public services! The guests on today’s program were clueless over this current crisis while refusing to acknowledge that their policies are part of the problem! On a very personal level, I was recently hired for a position in the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library system that I was supposed to start next week in a branch that is closing; which has left me in professional limbo! I don’t want hear excuses when alternatives could have been explored to keep these branches open!

  18. I agree with Aja and Jane. The $5 donations should be a simple thing to do, and overbuilding is part of Charlotte Government, in my opinion. These officials can’t seem to think outside the box. But its citizens are never invited to be part of committees which do things like this. Where are the really qualified people to run for public office, not lawyers or bankers?

  19. My concern, aside from the staff lay-offs and the overall sinfulness of closing libraries, is for the facilities, the buildings themselves. If there is no money to run the libraries, then there’s no money for the expense of removing, then storing, then moving them back. So, just lock the doors? Two overall problems with that.
    One – Will the power and the AC be left on? If not, then the humidity of summer in Charlotte means that the books will soak up moisture and mold. Trashed. I saw a library storage room covered in black mold when power was shut off during the summer. Might as well burn them.
    Two – (Speaking of burning) Vacant buildings get trashed. The will be broken into. Count on it. If computers are left in place, they will be stolen, and soon. And the books and furnishings? Shall we start a pool on how long until an empty library burns? No upside yet, except for the “no tax” zealots.
    one final note. I’ve seen some speculation that this is a scare tactic, a “Washington Monument” ploy to get funding. As bad as the closings would be, that sort of tactic might be worse, as it would destroy library credibility with the very people who want to save it.
    If I referenced Farenheit 451, how many people would get it? Oh, civilization was such a lovely idea…

  20. 1. The buildings will be vacant of people AND MATERIALS. All materials will be circulated through the remaining branches, not left in old library buildings. Additionally, some of the branches are under lease, so these buildings will no longer be our concern.

    2. They’ve also discussed having security at these vacant buildings to deter crime.

    3. We, staff, have not received pay increases in two years, were required to take 4 furlough days and had some benefits cut. Most would not be okay with additional pay cuts.

    4. The branches that were chosen were generally the slowest and smallest branches. Most (knowledgeable) employees agree with the decision, with the exclusion of two branches, Hickory Grove and Morrison. There are much better options, i.e. FRL, WBL, ST, D, PM.
    My question is why were some of these branches left open? With their low circulation stats and small buildings, they will be of little use to us as the materials from large branches, IB and MOR, circulate.

    As much of a financial burden it will be, I hope to be cut and shorten my time worrying about my employment with the county. It will only be threatened again come July.

    • Thanks for the inside info. It’s good to hear that my concerns have already been addressed. Your last two sentences, though, speak volumes. God bless you, my friend. I wish you well.

  21. I would like to challenge students who are college-bound to utilize the libraries, to whatever extent is available to them, at nearby colleges and universities. The Myers Park branch to be closed is very close to Queens University, and the Beatties Ford branch is close to JCSU. Go ahead and acquaint yourselves with the services available to you, especially if you see yourselves going to college soon. You may not have all of the services availble to you that a college student does, but books that can’t be checked out can be photocopied. HOWEVER, I would also caution you that some of the idle behavior that I’ve observed at some of the library branches will not be tolerated at a college library. If a librarian doesn’t come by and shush you, a senior studying for his CPA exam certainly will. The librarian will no longer be seated behind a desk that looks like a choo-choo train and most of the folks around you will be a little more serious about their studies.

    This situation is unfortunate. I feel like it is the county’s equivalent of CMS cutting arts courses out of the schools while getting new football uniforms, but there are ways to weather the storm.

  22. I’ve heard rumors that the Mint Hill Library land is coveted by a local developer. Maybe that influenced at least one choice.

  23. […] here to listen to the show and read listener […]

  24. Dear Mike,

    Please continue the wonderful work “Charlotte Talks” is providing to make more people aware of the library closing crisis.

    I truely believe we can change this situation because people (voters) in the community are really angry they were not given a voice in the library closings.

    I am trying to organize a rally insuport of our much needed libraries.

    Thank you,

    Roger Alan bernard

  25. Mike said it well, “we were fat, dumb, and happy for so many years” and now the chickens are coming home to roost…
    Mecklenburg is going to feel some pain for a change, and it is not going to be pretty. We’ve gotten too comfy with our luxury-addicted way of life. Libraries fell under the spell as well…building such behemoths as Imaginon and the other “pretty libraries.” We’re not alone!! Other cities fell victim as well, and now, we will have to endure a period of “readjusting our expectations” that will last the next 8-10 years. Schools have gotten used to trailers, why not libraries? (And, I’m a librarian!!) Where’s the bookmobile when you need it? I pray that a middle of the road solution can be found as well–stay tuned. Next thing–closing some of our parks.

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