Petitions circulate around town to save library

By: Stephanie Dumm, News Messenger Reporter
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Don’t be surprised if you see residents in front of the Twelve Bridges Library or walking in neighborhoods armed with petitions during the next week and a half. That’s because Friends of the Lincoln Library members have started a petition to help save Lincoln’s libraries. “The petition is to bring awareness that there are a lot of people out there who are interested in keeping the library open,” said Shirley Russell during the last Friends of the Lincoln Library meeting. Russell is a member of Friends of the Lincoln Library. The city is facing a $1.7 million deficit in its general fund, which is where funding for the library comes from. The deficit could mean a reduction in programs and hours that the library is open, and more drastically, could mean the possibility of closing the Carnegie Library, according to previous News Messenger reports. Friends of the Lincoln Library members will present the signed petition to the mayor and City Council during the April 20 budget workshop that begins at 5:30 p.m. at McBean Park Pavilion. John Johnson, a Lincoln resident present at the Friends’ last meeting, said he planned to have Semper Fi members sign the petition at the club’s Monday morning meeting. “I think the city needs to understand that the public wants this facility,” Johnson said. To Jeri Chase Ferris, also attending that meeting, the library is “a basic foundation for any society.” Chase Ferris said she will bring the petition to all the clubs and groups she belongs to. “People are enthusiastic about signing, and enthusiastic about keeping the library open,” Ferris said. As of Wednesday, Ferris said she filled six pages with signatures from her dance group and paper-arts group members. “I think it’s a very honorable cause and I’m very happy that they feel this is an important service to them,” said Darla Wegener, director of Lincoln’s library services. “I’m just really impressed by the ladies who are organizing this and that they are trying to make sure library services continue in Lincoln.” Friends of the Lincoln Library will be better equipped for how they can help the library through this year’s budget crunch after the April 20 meeting, according to Friends of the Lincoln Library president Verna Rowe. “After the April 20 meeting, we hope to have a better idea if hours will be cut at the Twelve Bridges Library, and if they are, the Friends are prepared to help out to restore or enable programs, especially with children to consider,” Rowe said. One way Friends will step up is to provide some of their fundraising money to “help some problems with programming,” according to Rowe. Another option is to enlist the help of young mothers who frequent the Mother Goose on the Loose program, according to Rowe. “We’re trying to get the young mothers in the community to be more active in the saving of programs for young children,” Rowe said. The News Messenger spoke with several library patrons about ways the library can get through these difficult economic times. “It’s ridiculous that they have this beautiful building and it’s barely even open,” said Linda Cannon, who weekly brings her three children to the Twelve Bridges Library. “They’ve already cut hours back and you have to look at the schedule before coming here. Before they cut the hours back, you could just hop in the car and come down.” Cannon suggested that the city “think outside of the box” for a solution to the budget and for more seniors to volunteer at the library. “It’s critical, the library,” Cannon said. “It’s a way you foster a love of reading.” Scott Hamilton gave the suggestion of better management of money on the city’s part because he said their “priorities are messed up.” “I know the hours have changed a lot, especially staff hours,” Hamilton said. “I feel bad for the staff because of the reduction of their hours. It’s a shame they can’t find the money to keep it open longer.”