LANCASTER SUNDAY NEWS

Posted on January 12th, 2014 in Watchdog

LANCASTER SUNDAY NEWS

Editorial “The Library Wars” in part comments:

“Maybe the war of words between the library system and the Lancaster Public Library is a power struggle. Or a money struggle. Or a turf war. Or a personality conflict. Or all of the above…

“As usual, this has become a he-said, she-said battle…

“If we had to guess, we’d say that’s at the heart of the library wars: conflicts over who gets to call the shots on funding, who gets the money and what the spending priorities should be…

“More than a truce, the combatants need mediation to get to the bottom of the conflict and to change the way libraries relate to each other.”

WATCHDOG: It is important to avoid ‘moral equivalency’ whereby, in an effort to be evenhanded, diverse points of view are treated as being of equal merit.

In fact, although the majority of the library users visit the three largest of the fourteen county libraries, the largest – downtown Lancaster Public Library with its two rural branches–has only one of the fourteen votes in making decisions for the System, each library regardless of size having one vote. Theoretically the final decisions are made by the System own board but, allied with the smaller libraries’ interests, they act pretty much as a rubber stamp.

Another concern is 98% of the County’s contribution is consumed by the System for its own operations, much of which is redundant, inefficient and, a times, dysfunctional. It has been suggested that the System be made to sell its services and each library have the option of whether to purchase individual services. The System would thus become more responsive and productive. Moreover, County funds would be freed up for aid to the individual libraries.

Meanwhile, while all but about an eighth of State contributions to the System is passed through to the individual libraries, it is by a formula controlled by the majority of smaller libraries and thus disproportionately benefits them.

Hence, the roots of the recent elimination of funding for the popular and heavily used Business Center housed at the downtown library can be traced to disproportionate voting rights.

Mediation isn’t going to solve the problems. Only a reform in voting rights through pressure from the County Commissioners can. It would remain within the power of the Commissioners to allocate some extra money to help sustain smaller libraries.

The only other option is for one or more of the larger libraries to withdraw from the System. In a way this would venture into unexplored legal territories for the distribution of state and county funding. But it may be the only way to end the bickering, bring about fairer approaches, and better serve the public.

NewsLanc long proposed either doing away with the autonomy of the individual libraries or eliminating the System. Based on what has been occurring, we would now advocate reforming or abolishing the System.

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