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Fairmount Public Library.

Fight Library Consolidation

The governor of Indiana has formed a Committee on Local Government Reform to look into consolidating local government units in order to save on property taxes. In particular, the Committee is looking into the merger of library districts into all-county districts. If this were pushed through, it woule mean the merge of all library districts in Grant County, including ours, into the Marion library district.

It is my opinion, both as a private citizen and as secretary of the Fairmount library board, that this would be a disaster for Fairmount. We are trying to grow out of our current library and modernize in the process, and all without issuing bonds that would further burden the town. If our library district disappears and Fairmount's library become a mere branch of the Marion Library, all our work on the town's behalf would be in vain.

Also, as the current library is very small, in a merged district our branch would be among the first to close under pressure to save on taxes. This would be a serious blow to Fairmount's efforts to improve itself both economically and culturally. Its citizens would have no bond to the Marion Library (after all, it's in Marion, right?) apart from paying taxes for it. And Fairmount (and the other towns in the county) would resist any attempt by the Marion Library to expand or do anything else that would raise those taxes. Marion Library as a result would have to expend more funds for such outreach efforts as bookmobiles in order to bond with those alienated communities in the surrounding county. These, in turn, would ensure that property taxes for libraries would grow or remain high, frustrating any attempt at tax savings.

I believe it is not likely that library district merger would ever take place in Grant County. Gas City and the surrounding county would resist it. And Marion, with its economic pull diminished over the past quarter century and with fewer people than the rest of the county, would not be able to force the issue. But stranger things have happened.

Therefore, it is worthwhile to attack this issue while it is in the committee stage. As reform in theory would mean destruction in practice, the only sensible solution for the moment is for the Committee to do nothing. Let the library districts in Grant Country be.

I have asked the citizens of Fairmount to come together to prevent the loss of our town's library. You can contact the Committee on Local Government Reform by mail at:

Committee on Local Government Reform
Center on Urban Policy and the Environment
334 North Senate Avenue, Suite 300
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204-1708

or by e-mail at

During this month and next, be sure to contact our local state representatives and urge them to vote against the consolidation of our libraries in Grant County as the governor tries to anticipate the commission's report in setting a consolidation agenda.

Update (16 December 2008)

The final report from the Committee on Local Government Reform is been released. Three of the recommendations deal with libraries:

  1. Reorganize library systems by county and provide permanent library service for all citizens.
  2. Require that the budgets and bonds of library and all other special districts be approved by the fiscal body of the municipal or county government containing the greatest proportion of assessed value in the unit seeking approval.
  3. Strengthen the current joint purchasing infrastructure for libraries.

I have already commented on these recommendations. To summarize: It is not doable in Grant County without a great struggle; there will be a struggle between the old agency that approves library budgets and the county councils that the commission wants to approve them; but the last item is okay provided the infrastructure works.

Be sure to inform our local state representatives and urge them to vote against the consolidation of our libraries in Grant County during the coming session of the General Assembly.

Copyright © 2013 by Andy West. All rights reserved. Last updated 16 December 2007.