The clock is ticking toward the termination of the Antiquarian and Historical Society’s tenure in the Culver Union Township Public library. In a vote of 4 to 1 with Jim Hahn, president, abstaining, the board adopted a resolution to revoke an existing agreement with the Society, to use a 2,000 sq. ft area in the basement of the library for a Culver history museum. The agreement, signed in July of 2006 by Robert Kreuzberger, president of the Antiquarian Society, Jeff Kenney, secretary, Ron Cole, president of CUTPL, and Kathleen Kline, secretary, included a clause for potential cancellation and revision of the agreement, stating that, “the agreement may be terminated by either party upon written notice three years in advance.”
In September of 2007, an additional memorandum of understanding was signed clarifying certain sections of the original agreement. This memorandum was accepted on the signatures of Jim Peterson, Fred Karst, and Jeff Kenney for the Antiquarians and Peg Schuldt, Rita Lawson, Marcia Adams, Joan Dugger and Ron Cole for CUTPL.
Recently, an ad hoc committee of library board members was formed to review and advise on the needs of the library for the coming three years. The committee, composed of Carol Saft, Melanie Robertson and Al Nyby, reviewed the needs of the staff and public and concurred that the area now used as a museum should be converted into usable space for library purposes. This was discussed with the library board members and presented prior to the public meeting with representatives of the Antiquarian Society. This meeting was to inform the Society of the recommendations that would be presented for voting at the regularly scheduled CUTPL meeting.
Prior to voting on the resolution, Hahn opened the meeting to Jim Peterson, Antiquarian & Historical Society, and Jim Faulkner, representing the staff of CUTPL, for their remarks.
Peterson noted the Society had no input into the ad hoc committee’s conclusions. He told the board and standing audience members that the Society’s involvement with the library had begun in the 1990’s. During that period, area for a library had been offered at the vacant lot adjacent to the Culver Dental Clinic at a token price, but Society members felt that with the history of the old Carnegie library and the importance of maintaining a presence in the downtown area, it was crucial that the Carnegie library and renovation be kept on Main Street.
The Antiquarians actively lobbied for keeping the library downtown and donated $10,000 toward the Carnegie renovation and new addition. The original space to be dedicated to a museum area, Peterson said, today is used as the library’s computer room.
“There were no hard feelings” Peterson continued, noting the original museum agreement with the library ended with the early 2000s renovation and addition to the Carnegie library.
He detailed the library’s later efforts to form a local history and genealogy area in the unfinished space in the old Carnegie basement of the library, explaining the Society gradually stepped in to assist in providing assistance and research materials for the library’s endeavors. Eventually, the library and Antiquarian and Historical Society reached an agreement for the Society to create a museum space in the room, which is today the Center for Culver History.
The Society then spent $100,000, receiving a grant from the Marshall County Community Foundation for $40,000, to convert the unfinished space into a usable area for the museum. Peterson said that the museum was always in the plans of the previous library boards and was always considered to be used as a history department. The board ultimately removed staffing and the Antiquarians hired the staff required to maintain the museum.
“This saved the taxpayers of Culver and Union Township.” Peterson continued. He also pointed out that the Society contributed material to the web site and provided genealogy research space.
“Let’s work together on this and negotiate.” Peterson said “We are committed to the library.”
Staff letter read
Faulkner read a letter he said represented the views of the staff of the library, and was signed by all staff members, noting the library director was not a part of the discussion or had input into the conclusions of the letter.
“The staff works every day to serve the public and listen to all public input.” Faulkner said, noting he had been “deputized” by the staff to read the letter, which he said was in part a response to a letter to the editor by Peterson published recently in the Citizen. “We all have a genuine sense of community and are privileged to serve. We regret any unfair cruising comments in the media.”
Faulkner continued by noting that a common goal is to secure more space for technical purposes, quiet rooms for student studying, and more space for increased collection of books and audio/visual material. He noted that space for staff was extremely limited. Behind the main circulation desk is a 360 sq. ft. area housing five desks, three tables, book shelves, sinks, and a large copier. New collections are sometimes placed on the floor behind the screen that shields the circulation desk from this area until they can be catalogued and placed on shelves. All citizens of the township and town pay taxes for library services, he noted, and the staff stands behind the library board’s decision to use the museum room for library use.
“Other buildings, store fronts, historic homes, are available for use for a museum.” Faulkner said. “We should provide services for the community as a library.”
Public gives input
Hahn asked for public input from the standing-room-only crowd of over 60 attendees. Audience member Dennis Lewanowski asked if thee library is currently using space available in the best manner. He said that 2,000 sq. ft. was really nothing in comparison to space available in the rest of the library. He suggested hiring a professional organizer to assess the situation.
Audience member Russ Mason noted that the museum was always part of the library’s long term plan. Hard copy book reading is becoming a thing of the past with online reading devices available. He continued, “You haven’t told us how you plan to use the space occupied by the museum. How will you utilize this?”
Ginny Bess Munroe asked if the ad hoc committee had asked the taxpayers of Culver and Union Township if they wanted the museum to be discontinued in that space. She questioned if materials could be archived offsite to save space.
Jim Bonine, who served one term as a member of the MCCF board, said that the Marshall County Community Foundation had not been given enough credit for their grant to the library of $100,000 (editor’s note: the 2008 grant given by the MCCF was actually for $40,000, rather than $100,000).
Bill Clevenger said that Antiquarian Society members were also taxpayers and could be considered as “paying their share” toward the maintenance and upkeep of the library. Mike Fitterling told the board that “we are all taxpayers and you are here to serve us.” He said that the Society has paid its share of rent in the $100,000 already spent on the museum room. Joan Bess, retired librarian of the Culver Academies, said that a library’s main function is to provide information rather than just to amass books, and the museum certainly qualified in that duty.
Agnes Bramfeld asked how a dancing class (one of the reasons noted as a need for additional space) trumped the use of the space for assisting people with historical research and the museum. Linda Hippenhammer said that libraries have to transcend into the future. Cataloging books may not be the best use of library facilities given the wave of the future, which seems to be leaning toward wireless books and other media for all categories becoming more available.
Ali Gaskill, a library staff member for five years, noted that the children’s area was a constant madhouse from 3 p.m. onwards during the winter and even more so in summer months. She said that 50 percent of children who visited the library did not have access to a computer or wireless reading devices. Patty Stallings told the board that, “you’re listening to the staff and you aren’t listening to the taxpayers - there is a lot of space that can be used if properly reviewed.”
Ed Pinder said he uses the library on a weekly basis. He complimented the Antiquarians for cleaning up and renovating the unused space in the basement, and asked the library board to reconsider their position. David Bigley said he thought a 2,000 sq. ft. addition could be added to the front of the library, as there is plenty of space available to do so.
Nyby presents numbers
Board member Nyby proceeded with a Power Point presentation for clarification of the decision to annul the agreement. He preceded the presentation commenting that he was the last member of the library board to agree to removing the museum from the library. The Power Point highlighted the increased amount of books and audio/visual materials being stored in the library and the need for more book shelves, citing the acquisition of 60,000 books between 2000 to 2009. Also cited was the need for more room for student studying and technical areas. Acknowledging his figures on visitors to the library in the past three years were guesses, Nyby said he supports a “people counter” to determine the number of citizens visiting the library, but noted that a record was kept of all visitors to the children’s area and that more activity in visits was shown for one month to the children’s room than to the museum all year.
Nyby then proceeded with introducing the resolution to put the Antiquarian Society on notice of termination of agreement.
Saft, a member of the ad hoc committee, said she was unaware of the material being presented in the Power Point and was unhappy that she wasn’t given opportunity to study it before the meeting. Despite statements given the board that museums within other Indiana libraries are virtually nonexistent, Saft said her investigation found that many other libraries around the state host museums. She said that in fact Culver’s library had sent a staff member, during the development of the current museum, to meetings of a statewide consortium of libraries with museums, towards development of Culver’s museum.
Saft then made a motion to delay considering the resolution pending more negotiations with the Antiquarians. The motion died for lack of a second. Hahn then told board members he would not cast a vote at this time. Robertson introduced the motion to approve the resolution, seconded by Nyby. The vote was Joyce Greeson, Melanie Robertson, Rita Lawson and Nyby voting in favor, Saft cast the opposing vote, and Hahn abstaining. The clock for the museum started ticking at that point, according to Ken Lukenbill, library board attorney.
Hahn then told the audience that the museum issue would be on the agenda each month and urged a representative of the Antiquarians to be present.
Library budget and other business
The library board approved their budget estimates for 2011 after receiving non-binding approval from the Marshall County Council. Al Nyby, chairman of the budget committee, announced that the $224,000 budget amount for 2011 would result in taxes of .0519 for the General Fund and .0603 for the Debt Service Fund. He also noted that salaries for 2010 were $2,000 higher than expected and there was a $600 amount due now that was earlier than expected for unprinted data.
Carol Saft, member, asked why the working budget submitted was less than the budget amount approved. Nyby said that in order to get the taxes needed, it was necessary to ask for this amount to support the operating fund. He noted that if you asked for less, the money to fund debt service and general fund might necessitate using the savings. “This is what happened previously that decimated our savings” Nyby responded.
Under the directors report, Colleen McCarty, director, said there would be a celebration for Friends of the Library who have contributed so much time and effort toward support of the library. There are approximately 35 members. She also reported that Ali Gaskill had completed Level 6 of library sciences and now qualifies to be a head librarian.
McCarty said that the long range plans encompassed three years and is action oriented. The library conducted a survey of patrons to see what programs and services could be provided. The survey which was sent to patrons and published in the Culver Citizen had a response of 173 patrons with only two mentioning the history museum. The plan includes connecting on line with patrons, creating quiet time space for student studying, create young leaders by offering programs for pre-school age children.
She emphasized the need for more staffing as endorsed by Saft. McCarty also said that the computer technician, Andrew, indicated that the present computers that are three years old, can last up to five years with good maintenance. The issue is that Andrew must also be on call for the history museum’s computer system and must leave the computer lab unattended.
Other needs outlined was the previously mentioned space for student studying, request for extended hours of library use and more staff working space. There is also the need for a space to offer tutoring. Activities that use the main meeting room are extensive and include dance class, Girl Scout meetings, Knitting group, and other civic group meetings. McCarty also said that the “Friends of the Library” have little or no space to work at the present time.
Jim Faulkner, accounting manager, said that CUTPL had been chosen as a test area for a new on line information system. The system, if approved, would allow budgets and annual reports to be submitted on line. CUTPL is one of 17 in Indiana chosen to participate.
McCarty told the audience that all information in her report and recommendations would be posted on the CUTPL’s web site.
During a report from the library’s ad hoc finance committee, Nyby outlined changes in funding for the library next year, noting about $31,000 will be lost in CAGIT monies due to changes in property taxes across Indiana. He also described major increases in the cost of group health insurance for employees, noting after receipts and expenditures are tallied, the library’s budget is left with only $10,000. Giving employees a one percent raise would cost $2,400, and hiring the full-time employee discussed elsewhere in the meeting would cost an additional $28,000, said Nyby. He also said extending the library’s weekend hours to include Sundays would cost around $2,000 per hour open.
Nyby suggested “people counter” machinery to keep more accurate statistics on patron usage to help decide what hours the building should be open, at a cost of $1,800 to $2,000. The board also moved forward with plans to erect three public signs directing traffic to the library, around the town of Culver.
In answer to Faulkner’s question, the board agreed the letter Faulkner read, signed by all library employees, concerning the museum issue, should not be posted to the library website, with Greeson noting that Society members had been directed by the board not to bring issues or concerns to the library staff, so it wouldn’t seem appropriate to publicly post staff opinions about the matter.