Saturday, July 20, 2002

Supporters rally to save libraries

Grass-roots campaigns prepare community blitz

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer contributor

        MOUNT HEALTHY — “Save Mount Healthy's Library” is the rallying cry for residents who plan to put the message on a banner and hang it across U.S. 127 next week in the heart of this 1-square-mile city.

        But the banner Joe Roetting and Janet Curley are preparing is just one part of a grass-roots campaign that has partnered residents with schools, businesses, churches and city leaders in an effort to keep their branch of the Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County open.

        It is an effort being repeated throughout Hamilton County by hundreds of residents who have mounted petition drives, started letter-writing campaigns and called town meetings in an effort to keep five libraries open.

        The announcement was made Monday that branches in Mount Healthy, Greenhills, Bond Hill, Elmwood Place and Deer Park would close Sept. 1 to save money in the face of declining state revenues.

        Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune has called a meeting for 2 p.m. July 26 to bring together community and library officials to discuss the planned closings. He has invited elected officials and government leaders of the affected communities. Three library trustees and its executive director have also been asked to attend the meeting, which is not open to the public.

        “If it were not absolutely necessary financially, we would not be taking this step. It was a very difficult decision,” said Kimber Fender, the library's executive director. “It is an emotional issue.”

        But unless another funding source is identified, the branches will close, Ms. Fender said.

        “We're adamant about trying to keep it in town,” said Ms. Curley who is a business owner and past officer with the Mount Healthy Business Association.

        The group has asked ministers in the city to address the topic from the pulpit this weekend and ask their congregations to help in a letter-writing campaign. The issue is featured on Assumption Church's Web site,, which lists library trustees and allows visitors to leave messages that will be presented with petitions.

        Residents in each community echo the same sentiments:

        “Bigger isn't always better, we can walk there, librarians know us, our schoolchildren walk on field trips to the library, and the library is an integral part of the community.”

        A door-to-door campaign is being mounted in Bond Hill this weekend by community council members who are planning a letter-writing campaign, said Sam Nellom, the council's president. The council plans to brainstorm options to present to library trustees as an alternative to closing the branch.

        “I can understand the reasons, but I don't like it,” Mr. Nellom said Friday. “We will do all we can to keep our library.”

        Petitions are also circulating this weekend in Elmwood Place.

        “There's nothing for these kids except the library,” said secretary Janie Stacey.

        In Deer Park, the board of education adopted a resolution of support this week. Mayor Dave Collinsis hosting a town meeting at 7 p.m. Monday in the Deer Park High School auditorium to accommodate the expected crowd.

        “We had no inkling it (the closing) was coming,” Mayor Collins said. “I think there's probably some way to divert it.”

        Within 48 hours of the announcement, more than 70 Greenhills residents came to a noontime Village Council meeting to lend support to village leaders who pledged to inundate library officials with petitions, review financial records and attend the library board's Aug. 12 meeting.


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