Upcoming Meetings About Possible Consolidation of the City and County Library Systems

February 23, 2007 - Several meetings are scheduled in the next few weeks regarding the proposal to consolidate the Minneapolis and Hennepin County library systems. The stated goal of a consolidation would be to ensure the financial health of the Minneapolis libraries while also promising an improved level of service for all Hennepin County residents.

These public meetings come as two advisory committees wrap up their deliberations on a possible consolidation.

At four of the upcoming meetings, City, Library Board and County representatives will discuss why a consolidation is being considered and what changes a unified system might bring.

These meetings are scheduled as follows:

Thursday, March 1, 2007
7:00 PM - 8:30 PM
Walker Library
2880 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis

Saturday, March 3, 2007
10:00 AM - 11:30 AM,
North Regional Library
1315 Lowry Ave. N., Minneapolis

Monday, March 5, 2007
6:30 PM - 8:00 PM
Minneapolis Central Library
300 Nicollet Mall

Thursday, March 8, 2007
7:00 PM - 8:30 PM
Nokomis Library
5100 34th Ave. S., Minneapolis

For more info go to: http://www.mpls.lib.mn.us

The public is also invited to two upcoming meetings to comment on the consolidation as recommended by the Committee on the Future of Libraries in Hennepin County.

These meetings are scheduled as follows:

Hennepin County Library Board Meeting
Wedenesday, February 28, 2007
5:00 pm - 6:30 pm
Brookdale Library
6125 Shingle Creek Parkway, Brooklyn Center
Public comment portion of meeting begins at 5:15 pm

Information Session Hosted by Hennepin County Library Board
Wednesday, March 7, 2007
5:00 pm -6:30 pm
Eden Prairie Library
565 Prairie Center Dr, Eden Prairie

Comments may also be submitted online to the Hennepin County Library Board. For more info, go to: http://www.hclib.org

The consolidation vision calls for creating a premier library system that would provide better and more seamless service to the public, preserve each system's complementary strengths, and adopt the best practices of both systems. Under the proposal, all existing library names would remain the same.

Under the proposal, the unified library system would become a Hennepin County department governed by the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners and funded by a countywide property tax. The County's existing library advisory board would be expanded from 7 to 10 members, and the three new appointments would initially be reserved for Minneapolis residents.

On Feb. 15, the Committee on the Future of Libraries in Hennepin County, an advisory group created by the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners, endorsed a merger of the two library systems. The Minneapolis Library Advisory Committee, an advisory group created by the Minneapolis Public Library Board of Trustees, is expected to vote on the consolidation at its Feb. 27 meeting.

If both advisory committees recommend consolidation, the Minneapolis Public Library Board of Trustees, the Minneapolis City Council, and the Hennepin County Commissioners would then vote whether to proceed with negotiations. These votes are all expected to take place in March. If passed, the issue would then go before the Minnesota Legislature. Legislative approval would be needed because a merger would require changing the Minneapolis City Charter--essentially the City's "constitution."

The Hennepin County library system has 26 suburban libraries, and the Minneapolis system includes 15 libraries, three of which are temporarily closed. Although the two systems have similar programming and complementary missions and collections, the financial picture of the two systems is quite different.

While the Hennepin County system is fiscally healthy, Minneapolis's financial resources are inadequate and expected to worsen. Budget shortfalls in 2004 forced the Minneapolis Library system to lay off 30 percent of its staff, cut hours by 35 percent, and reduce spending on collections, programs, technology and maintenance. This year, Minneapolis closed three libraries and reduced hours at its libraries. With no uncommitted reserve, another round of service cuts is anticipated for 2010.



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