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Library hours down to 12 a week?

Friends’ organization calls on every resident to help
By: Carol Feineman News Messenger Editor
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Darla Wegener, Lincoln’s library director, has a grim message about the Carnegie and Twelve Bridges libraries. “Next year, we’re not budgeting any programs at all. Right now, it’s a funding issue, we’re initially looking at cutting our staffs of up to half of the staffing we have now,” Wegener said Tuesday. “Council has directed us to balance the budget. We’re looking at drastic cuts right now and possibly going down to as low as 10 or 12 hours a week at one location.” The library director spoke to The News Messenger before that night’s Friends of the Lincoln Library meeting. The meeting focused on new ways to save the library money. The nonprofit Friends organization also held a similar meeting Dec. 7. “The Friends meeting tonight is to have a forum for the public to strategize on different methods to save the library, to be proactive,” Wegener said. “We did the same thing December, but this year, we have more drastic cuts; we’re trying to save more programs. Through Friends and other organizations’ donations, we can maintain Carnegie services, summer readings and Mother Goose on the Loose through June.” During Tuesday night’s Friends of the Lincoln Library meeting, Wegener said City Council instructed “us to make extreme cuts to balance the budget.” Wegener said she would tell City Council at Wednesday’s special budget workshop that the Carnegie could close and the Twelve Bridges Library could be reduced to 12 hours a week. That’s down from 27 hours currently open weekly at Twelve Bridges and 11 hours currently open weekly at the Carnegie. “The budget could be reduced $200,000, all coming from staff,” Wegener told the somber crowd of about 17 residents. The library director, along with the Friends of Lincoln Library President Karen Jarrell, encouraged the audience to “express their concerns about keeping both libraries open and operating at least at the current levels” at Wednesday’s public City Council budget workshop. That meeting was after Wednesday’s press time so a story about the workshop will be posted online today at lincolnnewsmessenger.com. “Encourage everyone to go tomorrow,” Jarrell said. Others in the audience also urged a show of support for the libraries at Wednesday’s meeting. “You need to talk to council members and tell them how important the libraries are,” Wegener said. “They need to give us a decent base budget.” That met with approval from the crowd. Sally Petersen, a Friends member and library shelf volunteer, asked for City Manager Jim Estep’s e-mail to write him about the library. Jeff Greenberg, the Friends’ vice president, suggested Friends members “go to restaurants and ask if they’re do a fundraiser. Get them to understand the danger of these doors closing.” While fundraising ideas were discussed Tuesday, including a coffee kiosk and attending the Night at the Carnegie” March 12 fundraiser, the one idea receiving the most interest was given by Mark Guerrero, who was at his first Friends meeting. Guerrero, who visits the library with his two young children, suggested setting up a PayPal account and asking for $5 donations to keep “the doors” from closing. Shirley Russell, the Friends’ correspondence secretary/grants writer/book chairwoman immediately asked the Friends’ organization to set up a PayPal account. The Friends organization would like both libraries to stay open at existing hours. For both libraries to stay open at those hours, revenue of between $400,000 and $450,000 is needed, according to a handout by Wegener at Tuesday’s meeting. “You have a $450,000 shortfall,” Friends member Kathy Dorsey said. “The current fundraiser (A Night at the Carnegie) is expected to net $5,000 to $7,000. Fundraisers are great but you’d have to have 80 fundraisers of those types a year to get $450,000. Each library user needs to make a donation.” Greenberg and several audience members agreed. “We need to seek out everyone of every age to come together,” Greenberg said. “We have to get them to understand, we can run all the fundraisers or everyone can pay $10 and $20 for those who can afford it.” Friends’ member Jane Tahti talked about the immediate need to get other community members into saving the libraries. “We have to get money from everyone,” Tahti said. “If they donate $10, if we call people, this is all we have to do.” And Jarrell, the Friends president, echoed the need to talk to Lincoln residents. “Proceeds from our March 12 Carnegie at the Night is to ‘Save Our Library.’ People don’t believe we could close,” Jarrell said.