Library consolidation bill includes voter opt-out

2009-02-19T00:00:00Z Library consolidation bill includes voter opt-outPATRICK GUINANE
February 19, 2009 12:00 am  • 

INDIANAPOLIS | A measure now before the Indiana Senate would allow library districts to opt out of proposed reorganization efforts with a little help from voters.

Senate Bill 348 would establish a service planning committee in each county to craft a plan for a consolidated county library system or draw up -- and defend -- a proposal to maintain multiple library districts.

The effort is a product of the Kernan-Shepard local government reform commission, which found that 6.5 percent of the state's population -- in pockets of 38 counties -- does not have access to library services.

But that's not the case in Lake County, where the library directors for the county, Crown Point, East Chicago, Gary, Hammond, Lowell, and Whiting have drafted a joint letter asking to be excluded from the reorganization bill.

"Since 1970 our libraries have had a long standing tradition of cooperation," the letter reads. "We recommend revision of SB 348 to provide libraries in the 54 fully served counties to remain independent and under local control provided libraries: Document adherence to Indiana State Library standards; demonstrate financial viability; establish long range and technology plans."

The Senate Appropriation Committee did not grant the requested exemption Thursday. But the legislation would allow a library district to extricate itself from the county reorganization plan if at least 100 citizens sign a petition requesting a referendum vote.

"If they choose to do that, then they will be excluded from the plan by their own vote," said Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville.

The legislation cleared committee on a 9-2 vote and now is eligible for amendment by the full Senate.

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