Public Library Hearings Scheduled

Board members of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County scheduled a series of public hearings that will likely determine the fate of five branches proposed to close because of budget cuts.

Last month, commissioner John Dowlin joined House Majority Leader Patricia Clancy and Senate President Richard Finan in announcing a stay in the decision to shut down Greenhills, Bond Hill, Deer Park, Elmwood Place, and Mount Healthy.

"The outcry we have witnessed over the past several days is a strong indicator of how important these branches are in their respective communities," claimed Clancy, who serves the 35th House District including Greenhills. "I am pleased that the board has worked with us in responding to the community and listening to their concerns more fully."

Now, residents in concerned communities can pencil in August 27 in Mt. Healthy. While the order of subsequent locations remains undetermined, the board scheduled meetings to take place every Wednesday at 7 p.m. until December.

Dowlin also plans to meet with board members separately to discuss another proposal. The commissioner's office wants the board to use $3 million set aside to build a branch in St. Bernard to operate the other branches. In exchange, the county would fund the new library and let the board buy it back later, interest free.

"What we're saying is you can borrow that money from us. We will actually own the library. We will lease it to you and we'll negotiate a contract, whereby, you pay us back when the moneys come in," explained Dowlin.

A drop in state funding forced the Library to sacrifice the sites. All but five percent of the $52.5 million budget comes from state personal income taxes, which fell by seven percent in 2002. Ohio ranks first in per capita state funding for libraries, providing almost 10 times more than the next highest mainland state.