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Join Jane Tahti in asking city to reopen the Carnegie

By: Carol Feineman, Editor
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I’ve been excited to read every Friends of the Lincoln Library column Jane Tahti has submitted the last four weeks about the Carnegie Library.

Tahti, who founded the nonprofit Friends of the Lincoln Library at the downtown Carnegie Library (at the corner of Fifth and F streets) is very passionate about the 104-year-old venue.

Lincoln City Council closed the Carnegie almost two years ago to cut back expenses in the greatly-reduced General Fund that pays for library services, along with police, fire and recreation services.

Tahti, who understands the economic reasons behind why the Carnegie is closed, says it’s now time to reopen the downtown location. The reason being is because of signs that the local economy is picking up.

“I can’t speak for the Friends but I will speak as a Friend. I have never been at a Friends’ meeting where the attitude toward the Carnegie wasn’t positive and hopeful,” Tahti said last Thursday after her latest column ran. “It’s on the agenda. We do realize that money is hard to come by and the city is trying to keep Twelve Bridges going but things are improving and the Carnegie needs to be reopened.”

Tahti is the guest columnist for the Friends of the Lincoln Library’s submission that runs in The News Messenger (see page 6 this week).

Her first two columns included the note, “Lincoln’s Carnegie Library is currently closed, due to lack of city funding. Watch for and join the efforts of The Friends of the Lincoln Public Library in re-opening the Carnegie.”

After two of Tahti’s informative and entertaining guest columns ran, I received an e-mail from the Friends’ president Lora Finnegan that said, “Hi Carol- Regarding the ‘author’s note’ at the top or bottom of the Jane Tahti columns: it should only say: This is the third of a multipart series on the Carnegie Library. Please remove the addition: Note: Lincoln‘s Carnegie Library is currently closed, due to lack of city funding. Watch for and join the efforts of The Friends of the Lincoln Public Library in re-opening the Carnegie. The Friends would not want that statement to be misinterpreted.”

I e-mailed the Friends’ president to ask why that statement would be misinterpreted and Finnegan responded, “We just don’t want to imply that we plan to spend funds for the Carnegie, which is something we haven’t voted to do.”

In fairness to Finnegan, she has donated hundreds of hours along with other Friends to make sure Lincoln has an open library. She told me Tuesday that reopening the Carnegie “would be good for downtown and for downtown residents to have access to reading materials, particularly for children within walking distance.”

But, as Finnegan explained, the Carnegie Library is “a concern for the Friends but we haven’t voted on whether it’s a priority.”

As the Friends’ president, Finnegan has a protocol to follow.

“We are in favor of reopening the Carnegie and we hope the city finances improve to the point where the city can reopen the Carnegie without any loss of service or hours to the Twelve Bridges Library,” Finnegan said.

I’ve admired Tahti’s Friends of the Lincoln Library columns because she tells it like it is.

Which is that the Carnegie closed due to budget cuts two years ago.

I hope the Friends’ members follow Tahti’s lead and say publicly, as often as possible, that the Carnegie Library needs to be open again.

“I think everyone would like to see the Carnegie open so we have to help make it happen,” Tahti said.

That means all of us should let City Council know, whether at council meetings, through letters to the editor or by letters to council members.

We need to worry less about bureaucracy and focus more on getting the Carnegie back to a normal schedule of operations.

Lincoln is still a small town. And the beauty of a small town is that residents can make a difference by telling easily-accessible City Council members what services are important to them.

In the last few years, for example, residents have been vocal and successful about retaining our police and firemen, keeping McBean Memorial Pool open and maintaining Twelve Bridges Library hours in the face of ongoing budget cuts.

If more library fans said what they felt, like Tahti is doing, maybe we’ll be writing about the Carnegie reopening in a few months.

And that would make scores of downtown residents happy as they could go back to reading, studying or using the public computers at a beloved institution of Lincoln that benefits all ages.