Popular programs vanish from Mesa library's budget
The Arizona Republic
Jun. 18, 2004

 12:00 AM
Adam Klawonn

Kahanu Brubaker took one look at the list of about 70 programs the Mesa
library will cut next year and thought of her three children, ages 1 to 7.

She sees the five items the city intends to keep. The children's favorite,
the Teddy Bear Picnic, isn't among them.

"That's it? What does that leave?" asks Brubaker, 28. "That's really sad
that they don't have the funding."

It is the recurring theme for the Mesa library system for the coming fiscal
year, which starts July 1. It's also an overall theme for Community
Services, the umbrella department that covers parks and recreation, the
arts, and the Mesa Centennial Center.

The cuts include signature library programs like a spring adult reading
club, Halloween Boo! and the Battle of the Bards poetry contest.

However, the library will get $150,000 to put a new security system in the
Dobson Ranch and Red Mountain branches to discourage people like the
so-called "library bandits" that hit the downtown branch from July to
September 2003.

Police and librarians busted three men from Mesa and Apache Junction, ages
19 to 22. who smuggled $3,500 in DVDs out under their shirts.

But the cuts continue - African American heritage, Spanish/Bilingual
Hispanic heritage, first-time homebuyer advice, story times, college
admissions, tae kwon do, and summer reading events are gone.

"In order for the public library to have the wide wealth of services to meet
as many needs as possible out there, everything has to take a hit," said
Peggy Haney, a Mesa library administrator.

Officials say the core library services - collections of books and other
materials plus the staff needed to keep them available and in order - must
remain intact.

That leaves community programs on the chopping block and means increased
fees for those the city keeps, such as Internet training classes.

It saddens Suann Fleming, 44, whose children enjoy the Battle of the Bards
and other programs.

"I had two children participating in those and it really encouraged them to
read," she said.

The library's DVD and music purchases will remain at 2002 levels. Their top
book and music titles now come in largely on a donation basis under the
city's new wish list program.

Patrons donated 140 titles worth $3,031 through May 31. The top donated
title was The Da Vinci Code, followed by Harry Potter books and The Lord of
the Rings trilogy.

There are 198,403 library cardholders. About 80 percent of them are Mesa

"I guess if you want to summarize, there's less here for people - less
books, less A/V (audiovisuals)" and more, said Trisha Sorensen, acting
library director.

About $10 million of the library's $11.1 million proposed budget comes from
the city's general fund.

Every city department is trimming its uses of that money and figuring out
new ways to bring money into the general fund to boost Mesa's bottom line.

The library is juggling those two city management mandates with a third -
namely, keeping resources open for job-seekers in a still-stagnant economy.

The library will keep its basic Internet training classes but may cut its
advanced courses, said Molly Rice, a library administrator. The city
couldn't get more than nine people to show up on a regular basis to make it

Class attendance dipped 30 percent among English-speaking students and 70
percent among Spanish-speaking students after Mesa instituted a $6-per-class
fee in 2003.

Expect other fees. Daily overdue fines will double from 10 cents to 20 cents
per day, for example. Fines for audiovisuals will go from 10 cents per day
to $1 per day. Fines are capped at $6.

Combined, they are expected to raise $75,500 for the city's general fund.

"Basically, we are down to the core services as far as what basically makes
a library," Rice said.

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