No card for you….

There has got to be a story behind this story (emphasis mine):

Lansing – Do you have a constitutional right to check out books from the library? The Michigan Supreme Court this week will consider a case that could have major implications for the state’s 388 public libraries.

It pits a resident in Bloomfield Hills against the nearby Bloomfield Township Public Library, which refuses to sell him a nonresident library card.

Bloomfield Hills is one of the country’s wealthiest cities, but doesn’t have a library.

Both sides say library users throughout Michigan could be hurt depending which way the high court rules.

Uhmmm….huh? Refuses to sell him a library card? I can understand refusing to give him a card, if he’s not entitled to it, but refusing to sell him one?

The library’s web site has a link to a Q&A document that explains the currently contentious relationship between the two cities, along with links to the various and sundry court cases. Yikes.

I’ve read the Q&A document. The tone of the document suggests to me that this discussion has been going on for a while now, and it’s gathering steam as it goes steadily downhill. In a nutshell, when the Bloomfield Township Public Library opened its doors, Bloomfield Hills didn’t have a library, and so the two cities (townships – whatever) entered into an agreement for library services. When the contract was up, the township asked the city to pay what it considered to be its fair share of the library’s operating costs, and the city refused.

To quote from the document (emphasis mine):

Q: Why can’t the Library negotiate a deal with the plaintiffs and resolve this issue?
A: BTPL Trustees are eager to reach an agreement with Bloomfield Hills to resume full use of the library by City residents. However, they are not prepared to continue subsidizing library service to Bloomfield Hills or any other community. Rather, they expect any community who wants to use a Township service to pay its fair share of the cost of operating that service. They find it particularly ironic that a City that ranked in the 2000 Census as the fourth most wealthy community in the nation would seek to have its public services subsidized by a neighboring community.

Oof-da, as my Scandinavian bretheren would say.

The document goes on (a bit later)

Q: What about City residents who feel they are disadvantaged by not having full access to the Township library?
A. Their lack of access is due to a decision by their own City Commission, which made the decision to terminate the contract. City residents should focus their energy and attention on urging their City Commission to reach an equitable agreement with the Library.

Wow. The tone of that answer is….chilly. I can imagine some Uber-Librarian saying something like that to someone inquiring about the situation. Yeesh.

OK. So, the township and the city are fighting over dollars, and the city has grown into the Big Rich Kid Next Door. Fine. I suppose someone figured the only leverage the library had was to deny service, thereby forcing the city’s hand.

But, boy, this makes the library look bad. They talk a lot about this being between the township and the city, but the bottom line is that the library looks like the mean guy in this fight. Wasn’t there a way to allow the city’s residents to use the library until all this got sorted out? So you charge $50 for a card. Or even $100. At least people could use the library.

Isn’t that what we’re supposed to be about?

I know funding is important….but yikes, people.




Filed under Customer Service, Libraries and Librarianship

3 responses to “No card for you….

  1. There is a story behind this. And the library is definitely not the bad guy. Read Larry Neal’s recent letter to the Macomb Daily for a great explanation of the library’s position in this case.

  2. He does have a point – but then, I imagined that there was one. Unfortunately, the library’s materials make them look like they’re withholding access, and being cranky about it, besides.

    The point is made in Neal’s letter that there is a cost to having a library, and I couldn’t agree more. However, if residents from Town B don’t want to build a library, and it costs the residents of Town A $100 per person to have one, then I would posit that a library card for Town B Resident should cost $100.

    My concern was that Town B Residents weren’t even able to BUY a library card, and so there were folks who didn’t have access to a public library. And that’s a shame.

  3. Pingback: Constitutional Right to Get a Library Card in Another Community?

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