Library Remains Strong Despite Changes

The marriage of convenience between the two libraries didn’t come without some controversy, said CADL Adult Selection Specialist Sarah Redman. The thought of joining the Ingham County library system with the Lansing Public Library had been discussed for several years as funding for both dried up.

“There was some resistance to the move originally, but I think funding had become so difficult for both that the two sides came to the agreement that has proved wise,” said Redman.

The Lansing Public Library was in dire financial straits in the late 1990s, Redman said. The Lansing School District had announced it would close the Downtown Lansing library at Kalamazoo Street and Capitol Avenue by the end of 1997 without a regionalism plan, according to newspaper accounts from that period in the Lansing State Journal.

The school district’s board said it could no longer afford to pay $2 million a year, the cost to run the downtown branch. Prior to that, Lansing’s public libraries had been funded and operated by the Lansing School District for nearly 100 years.

The regional library proposal went before county residents in 1997 and passed by a two-to-one margin. The $4 million millage request funded CADL through the end of 2000. Additional funding requests have been passed in subsequent years, including a voter approved 1.56 mill tax renewal in 2006 for a four-year period ending in December 2010. The library also receives some state funding and donations.

CADL, which is governed by a seven-member board, has a 2008 operating budget of nearly $13 million. This year CADL will spend $2 million on adding books and nonprint materials such as movies, music and audio books for adults.

Millage money cannot be used to expand facilities, and each community is responsible for providing its own library building. East Lansing, which is in Ingham County, is not a part of CADL.

Supporters of the district library system claimed the combined entity would allow for longer hours, new technology and larger book sections, Redman said. That apparently is exactly what has happened.

After its creation, CADL did re open two city library branches – Foster Library and South Lansing Library – that had closed under the previous leadership.

Ingham County branches are still operating in Aurelius Township, Dansville, Haslett, Holt, Leslie, Mason, Okemos, Stockbridge, Webberville and Williamston.

Redman, who served as head librarian for the Dansville library before joining CADL, said funding was so short in the 1990s that purchasing new materials for individual libraries was minimal.

“It made a lot more sense for us to operate on millage instead of trying to rely on county government and public school budgets year to year. It has made our funding much more stable so we can make long-term plans,” Redman said.

In her job, Redman is responsible for purchasing up to $2 million worth of books and other materials, which gives her a unique overview of the business of operating the library system. CADL’s youth director and branch directors also help with the material selection process.

Operating under a “larger umbrella” has its benefits, including being able to bring in new technology and putting CADL’s catalog in electronic form. All branches in the CADL system have Internet access with the number of terminals depending on the size of the community it serves.

Despite being a collective whole, each branch continues to stock print and nonprint materials unique to the individual community, too.

“That’s why it’s important that each branch director continues to have a say in items purchased and maintained. Patrons can browse all of the branches online from home for the materials they seek and place them on hold before coming in to check them out. People also can use all of our databases online,” Redman added.

CADL does have a very aggressive outreach program for people who are homebound, including a books-by-mail program for senior citizens. It even offers classes to patrons on how to use the Internet and other computer tools.

Redman said CADL continues to be a “small business resource” for those looking to start a business by offering help with things like writing a business plan or how to find funding. “We have a business librarian who works specifically with businesses in the area. They even offer programs on how to use eBay.”

Redman said growth has been steady during the 10-year history of CADL, which has expanded staff and added a number of librarians since 1998. Circulation of material doubled between 2000 and 2007.

“We saw double-digit circulation increases each of those years, which is very unusual for libraries; typically we see maybe a increase annually in circulation,” she said.

Circulation, which is the number of materials checked out, was over 2.3 million in 2007, according to CADL figures.

Author: Randy Stine
Photography: Terri Shaver

Capital Area District Library

Sarah Redman, Adult Selection Specialist

401 S. Capitol Ave.



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