GARY | Scores of library supporters flooded Tuesday's meeting of the Gary Library Board to learn which workers would be laid off, but the reorganization plan wasn't ready.
Board President Tony Walker said the board needed input from Library Director Otis Alexander who didn't attend the meeting. A meeting on that plan will be held within the next week, he said.
The main library was closed Jan. 2. The Library Board announced plans in December to convert the building into the South Shore Cultural Center and Museum. Four neighborhood libraries would remain open.
The need to close the main library first surfaced in March when a financial consultant said the library system would run out of money by Dec. 31. Additional revenue that came in last year only will last until March 1 of this year, Walker said.
During Tuesday's meeting, leaders of the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees Local 2760, which represents Gary library workers and public officials, spoke against shuttering the main library and transforming it into a cultural center and museum.
Williams Wallace, of the AFSCME Council 62, said those people who will lose their jobs won't be able to pay taxes.
"I don't mind paying taxes, but I do mind when my fellow citizens are losing their jobs and losing their homes," he said.
Lake County Councilwoman Elsie Franklin said the council has a representative on the Library Board but was never "apprised of any information as relates to the library's closure."
Franklin derided the board for not going into the community to ask what residents wanted. The public needs to speak, she said.
She also said she's taking steps to change the situation.
"There's nothing that's been decided that can't be undone," Franklin said.
Gary City Councilman Ron Brewer said he isn't in favor of closure and conversion to a museum.
"This is another bright idea being shoved down people's throats," Brewer said. "This seems like the baseball stadium. We didn't want it, so we don't go there. Give people something they want, not what you want."
Darren Washington, president of the Gary Community School Corp. board, said he believes the city can have a library and a museum.
Groans could be heard from the audience when the Library Board approved a contract with Gariup Construction, of Gary, for facade work on the South Shore Cultural Center and Museum. The company submitted the lowest bid of $386,500 for the work.
The board also approved a contract for legal services with the law firm of McCain & White.