To Jeff Reed, the Norwalk Public Library is more than a place to borrow books. He views it as a “People’s University” — a repository of knowledge to facilitate continued learning.
Reed, a member of the Friends of the Norwalk Public Library, and executive director Martin Haffey want to keep that repository well-stocked and thriving.
Apparently, resident do also, based on surveys about the library given to the public.
With such a goal in mind, library officials have asked residents to renew for the third time an operating levy on the November ballot.
The five-year, .55 mill levy brings in about $158,000 annually and costs the owner of a $100,000 home about $14.27 each year. It has been in place since 1982 and voters renewed it in 1997 and 2002.
Money from the levy, which does not increase the current levy tax rate, will help cover book purchases, subscriptions, building maintenance and repairs, employee salaries and benefits. The library was built in 1905.
Haffey said survey responders said they like the library’s uptown location and its hours, which officials have not changed in a decade. The library, with a budget of more than $1 million and annual circulation of 220,855, is open 3,540 hours annually or 59 hours a week. In the past year it hosted 144 programs attended by 7,629 people.
The levy expires this year and, with mounting costs and declining state funds, it is important for voters to renew the levy, Haffey said.
“We’re doing more with less money and that’s why we really need this levy,” he said.
The library’s programs and services include knitting and computer classes, story hour for children, book discussions, a chance to meet different authors, various contests, celebrations such as the recent Harry Potter party, microfilm, movie screenings, computer and Internet access as well as wireless Internet access.
Programs such as the Potter party and movie screenings are funded by The Friends, a fundraising and support group comprised of area residents. The group brings in money through book sales and other fundraisers. Haffey estimated the Friends of the Norwalk Public Library spends $5,000 a year on different programs.
However, their financial contribution is not nearly enough to keep the library operating, he added. That is where the levy comes in.
If the levy fails, Haffey said he will have to reduce service hours and the purchase of materials, programming, forgo needed repairs and probably lay off staff.
“It’s tough, but it’s a reality,” Haffey said about his need to let employees go should the levy fail.
But, Reed said, he does not think the levy’s failure will become a reality.
“I think (area residents) like their library and I think they see the value of the resources here,” he said.