Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Library survey shows levy has tenuous support



By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Residents love their library, but less than half of those who responded to a survey would give unqualified support to a tax levy for it, according to the survey conducted for the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

Staff helpfulness and expertise, the library's buildings and its book collection all averaged higher than 4 on the mail survey's scale of 1 (very poor) to 5 (excellent), according to preliminary results the library Board of Trustees received Monday. The survey results were culled from the 551 questionnaires returned out of 3,000 mailed to random residents in June. The information will be used to help the library create a strategic plan.

Just over 47 percent of those who replied agreed they would support a library levy unconditionally, "which is not enough to pass a tax levy," library Executive Director Kimber Fender noted. About 32 percent said they might support a levy, depending on what improvements the money was to be used for, with the rest saying they would not.

"But we're not talking about a levy to deliver improvements, we're talking about a levy for operating expenses," Trustee Tara Khoury said. "Passing a levy will be a big challenge, that's what the data tells me."

The library, which lost $4.3 million in state money a year ago, has cut staffing and operating hours at its 42 branches.

Hours were the most-cited reason for not using the library, at 18 percent. In fact, when asked to choose between fewer hours or fewer branches, almost 70 percent said they'd prefer that the library close branches.

Other survey findings:

• The main library downtown is the most-frequented location, with almost 30 percent visiting it at least once in the past six months.

• 44 percent said they would use self-serve checkouts if the library added them. But adding the machines could cost $20,000 to $45,000 apiece, Fender said.

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E-mail candrews@enquirer.com




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