Clinton Public Library supporters hope for a budget increase
CLINTON They’re not interested in angry speeches, drum circles or derisive hooting at municipal officials.
Instead, the newly formed “Save Clinton Public Library” is a polite and orderly group of library patrons who don’t want their library to die from benign neglect.
And they plan to make their voices heard.
At 7 p.m. Tuesday, group members plan to show up at the Clinton Village Board’s public hearing on the budget. They hope to encourage the board to increase funding for the library.
“We know the village is facing tough choices, and we want to keep it positive,” said Darla Dernovsek, a library supporter from the town of Clinton.
Here’s the problem as supporters see it: In 2003, the village contribution to the library was $85,235. The proposed village contribution for 2013 is $88,695. That’s an increase of 4 percent in 10 years.
The 2013 contribution was the same as the 2012 contribution.
Clinton, like all other municipalities, is trying to adjust to reduced state aid to cities and a decline in property values.
“If you continue to erode support at this level, eventually the foundation will be washed away,” Dernovsek said.
When budget documents came out, library supporters went to work using new media and traditional methods to reach their base: Young mothers, job seekers who use the library, business people, teen readers, audio book listeners—basically everyone of all ages who loved the library but might have taken it for granted.
“We tried to reach all the different treads of village life,” Dernovsek said. “It’s been all about finding those relationships.”
The “Save Clinton Public Library” Facebook page garnered 136 “likes” in a week. Organizers spoke at the Clinton Women’s Club and hope to speak to the Kiwanis next week.
They also used the old-fashioned method of a telephone tree.
“We started calling people to tell them about it,” Dernovsek said. “We’d ask, ‘Who do you know who is a library supporter?’ and ask them call their friends.”
Many people told her, “Oh, I couldn’t speak in front of the village board,” but agreed to carry an 8-inch-by-11-inch sign proclaiming, “I love my library.”
In addition, she asked village residents to make the “v” in “love” red to show that they were taxpayers.
“It should be mostly village residents speaking,” said Dernovsek. “I plan to read a letter from a village business person that can’t be there.”
Mary Ann Inman, a village resident, said she uses the “library all the time.”
“I use it mostly for the Internet—I don’t have it at home,” she said.
Inman, an artist, is president of the nonprofit Wisconsin Regional Artists, and the library provides the connection to that part of her life.
“I check out books, and I’ve participated in story-time readings with my grandkids when they were younger,” Inman said.
Would she be willing to pay more in taxes to support the library?
“Actually, I would pay more,” Inman said. “I think it’s really lacking, and I’d like to see it grow.”
Like other members of the group, she’s not angry.
“We just want to quietly state our purpose,” Inman said.
In that spirit, Inman is organizing a “reading flash mob” that will involve a gathering of people sitting in chairs and reading—sort of an anti-mob mob.
“I’ve designed a book jacket that says, ‘I love my library,’” Inman said. “I’m going to give it to everyone to put over their books.”
The “Save Clinton Public Library” group is not affiliated with the Clinton Public Library friends group or the library itself, organizers stressed. They don’t want their activities to adversely impact the friends group or library staff.
Library director Mary Bieber acknowledged that it has been a difficult budget season.
“The silver lining in all of this is to see the outpouring of support from people,” Bieber said. “I say that from my heart.”