The Washington Carnegie Public Library is looking to make some big changes in the coming year. During an informational meeting Library Director Teresa Heidenreich formally announced the library will no longer provide contract services that allowed residents in Steele, Veale and Washington Townships usage of the library.
Library officials say that while the contracts were putting a few thousand dollars into the library operation it was still leaving a situation where Washington City residents with their taxes were subsidizing services for the township users.
“We were glad to offer the contracts for all of these years, but it wasn’t equitable anymore,” said Heidenreich. “It wasn’t fair to the city taxpayer who was subsidizing service to those under the township contracts, so our board decided it was time to step ahead and bring the library into the twenty-first century.”
Library officials say that people per capita in Washington, based on the 0.1222 tax rate, were paying $34.76 for library services. People in the contract areas were paying as little as $2.73 per capita.
“We’ve been talking about it for awhile,” said Washington Township Trustee Michelle Guy. “It didn’t surprise me when they dropped the contract.”
Residents in those townships will be able to get library services. They will have to purchase a library card for $40 per year.
“We picked that number because the cost can fluctuate from year to year and we didn’t want to have to go back and change it year after year,” said Heidenreich.
The pitch at the meeting though was that the ultimate answer may be a county wide library service.
“We believe that could be accomplished and we’d wind up with a tax rate of around ten cents,” said Heidenreich.
The proposal could be carried out in a couple of ways. Officials say the county commissioners could vote to establish a county wide library. Or supporters could pass petitions and if they received 20 percent of the voters in the affected areas signatures they could establish a county wide library.
One question in that was what would happen with the Odon-Winklepleck Library. Heidenreich said they could continue to operate separately or merge with the Washington Carnegie Public Library.
During the presentation Heidenreich pointed out that while only 4.5 percent of Hoosiers have no library service, in Daviess County the number stands at 45 percent.
“We are a growing, not just city, a growing county and we want to be the Mecca for southwestern Indiana,” said Heidenreich. “We have I-69 now. We’re hoping to attract industry. We’re hoping to attract new residents to our community. We are in competition with other area community and counties and I think the more public services you can give to people interested in coming here, be it industry or employment, the better.”
“It comes down to making this a better community,” said Rick Shambon, Adult Services Program Coordinator for the Washington Carnegie Public Library Rick Shambon. “If we want this county and this city to be competitive with our neighbors, because lets fact it we compete with Jasper. We compete with Knox County. We need to offer public services.
“No one wants to pay more than they have to, but nothing is free. If we want to be progressive and to make Washington the best we can we need to establish ways to offer services that are essential in the twenty first century. Libraries are a part of that and an inexpensive part of that. We all have to invest not just in our present but in our future.”
Library officials are going to take the process one step at a time. The next step will be a meeting to determine how the library might convince the commissioners for expanding the library’s area. Dan Maley volunteered to head the effort.
“I honestly believe libraries are representative of our culture, our combined intellect,” said Maley. “As a populace if we are not behind libraries it’s like we’re making a statement that we are not behind education and growth and development and culture and all things that make people what they are.
“I’m amazed the local library was not county-wide, especially when you look at the rest of the state of Indiana. I’m excited to be a part of this effort. I’ve lived on four continents and libraries are such a hub. I think an area without a library is an under served area. It’s lacking opportunities.”
The meeting to work on the next step is open to anyone who is interested in county-wide support for the library will be September 18 at 5:30 p.m. at the Washington Carnegie Public Library.