Sunday, July 29, 2007

Update on the library meeting room fee

I have heard some more details about the changes in the Durham libraries, and a response by some citizen groups is in the works. 
A librarian gave me an unconfirmed rumor that there will be a three day grace period to return books and fines for an overdue book or video will be capped at $5 dollars. Someone else in the know told me that libraries around the country are doing this, because people apparently accumulate fines, and then never use the library again!
There are various explanations for the fee.  A librarian told me it was to replace lost revenue.  A member of the Library's board of trustees told me that they did not like this decision, but it came straight from the County Commissioners, and is relatively low and seen as half of the for-profit fee.  Reportedly Ellen Reckhow proposed it two years ago and it was approved during budget discussions at the Commissioners' meetings in May and June this year.  The board member told me the fee is for room upkeep.  The rooms aren't that dirty or in need of upgrades I think.  Another person with Library connections told me this is not related to the changes in fines, but is purely the County Commissioners trying to raise general revenue for the government.  That person expects this policy will fail, because for-profit users won't use the libraries.
The changes are supposed to start September 4th.  It looks like the smaller room at Parkwood and even smaller rooms at the North and East branches will continue to be free.  The board member said there were some inaccuracies in my earlier account,  I think this corrects them (though I doubt the fee is really only for room upkeep), but if anyone with information thinks this is inaccurate, please comment!
I noticed yesterday that (I think) 62 luxuriant marijuana plants were found and destroyed in Durham.  I wonder how much those drug surveillance flights cost and what levels of government pay for them.  The anti-drug war looks worse for society than the affects of many or all of the major illegal drugs, and money is being spent on this counterproductive policy and wars while services, such as free library services, are being cut or made more costly to the public.  My point is, there are plenty of ways to reduce government spending without cutting services that are beneficial or vital to Americans, especially those who aren't wealthy.        

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