Amarillo’s new City Council is in the midst of budget discussions. It’s an annual ritual the city’s governing board must endure.
I got word the other day that the city was considering a reduction in a valuable service it provides to its residents. I’m talking about the public library.
Now I hear that the cuts are off the table. At least for now. I hope they stay off the table and that the city doesn’t mess with a service that, according to the library’s 2016 annual report, provides a tremendous return on the investment taxpayers make.
The plan, as I understood, was to close the North, East and Northwest branches on Saturday. The city was considering a return to its 2009 weekly schedule.
The savings? It is reported to be around $92,000 annually.
The council is now turning elsewhere to save some money. Good deal.
Let’s put the library expenditure $3.8 million into some perspective. According to the Amarillo Municipal Library annual report, the city received $30.5 million in ancillary benefit in return. The return on that investment? $26.7 million. Not a bad return, right?
As I understand it, the library provides a valuable place for Internet research for residents who might not have Internet services in their homes. They visit the branches around Amarillo and use the public computers to do research or to assist them in finding answers to myriad questions they might have. Indeed, the library reports that 72,215 persons used the Internet in FY 2016.
Thousands of children participate in the summer reading program; 6,985 residents logged on to the library’s Wi-Fi network; the library loaned out 57,643 audio books, CDs and other media; it loaned out 307,904 DVDs. All this occurred during FY 2016.
My point is that the public library provides a valuable public service. The City Council also serves the same public.
Surely, council members want to ensure that the public they serve — and which uses the library network — remains educated and informed on the world around us.
My hope is that council members continue to keep faith with the public, the people for whom they work and who they serve.
I also hope reason will continue to prevail at City Hall.