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Southside Library

La Crosse City Council member Sara Sullivan, right, speaks at a press conference about trying to save the South Community Library Monday afternoon. Erik Daily

The La Crosse Public Library director Monday defended the recent recommendation to close one of the city’s branch sites as the only realistic option to offset a deep budget deficit, even as she described the decision as akin to “choosing which child you love best.”

After years of cutting other areas, those who oversee the city’s libraries simply could not justify reducing overall services to the point needed to keep both branches in operation, Kelly Krieg-Sigman told the city’s Board of Estimates.

So Krieg-Sigman, with the library board’s approval Thursday, presented a 2014 budget that calls for closing the South Community Library at 1307 16th St. S.

Eliminating the site would save an estimated $161,704 to help offset a predicted $268,258 shortfall for 2014, Krieg-Sigman said.

She blamed a combination of rising expenses, shrinking revenues and steady annual budget cuts for forcing the library board to recommend shutting down the south branch, which has been in operation since 1922 and at the current site since 1952.

The library has compensated in recent years by dipping into its reserves, but Krieg-Sigman said using those funds to keep the south branch running would all but drain an account designed to cover unanticipated expenses, not operating costs.

Just reducing hours at the south and north branch sites would confuse the public, force programs to be cut and diminish the libraries to “little more than book kiosks,” Krieg-Sigman said.

The flagship library at 800 Main St. already cut staff and hours for the 2013 budget and cannot sustain further reductions without crippling its level of service, Krieg-Sigman said.

The library board didn’t get the target numbers for the 2014 budget until mid-August, Krieg-Sigman said, leaving no time for fundraising, appeals to the public or searching for grant money, which normally can’t be used for operating costs anyway.

While she appreciates the public’s attachment to the library, “although we thrive on love,” Krieg-Sigman said, “we cannot live on it.”

But council member Peg Jerome, whose District 10 includes the south branch, was skeptical Krieg-Sigman and the library board had looked at all other alternatives before suggesting such a drastic step.

She noted at least three items in the library budget where the amount requested seemed to significantly exceed what was used in the current year.

When Krieg-Sigman explained that little extra is needed for the unexpected, Jerome pointed out that was the rationale for having the reserve funds.

Krieg-Sigman also acknowledged they had not pursued perhaps turning to library endowments such as the Washburn Fund for help. It has about $320,000 and a special trustee fund more than $1 million, she said, but policy has been not to use the money for operating costs.

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“I think it’s time” to reconsider that policy, council member Audrey Kader said.

Mayor Tim Kabat proposed city officials meet with the library board to look over the budget, potential funding sources and any other options to keep the South Community Library open.

Kabat already had said he wants to fund the branch for 2014 so the city has more time to look for a longer-term solution.

“I just don’t think closing a branch is an option,” Kabat said after the meeting.

Earlier in the day, more than 50 people gathered in front of the south library in support of keeping it open.

Among them was Nikole Hale and her six children, the library’s current Family of the Year. They live just up the street.

Her 14-year-old daughter, Helen, said the south branch offers her “a steady book supply.”

“I really like to read,” Helen Hale said, “so having new books close by is really a plus.”

Mother and daughter said it’s unlikely they would be able to visit the main library downtown as often if the branch site closed.

Council member Sara Sullivan, the chairwoman of the city’s Neighborhood Revitalization Commission who organized the rally, said she was troubled by the prospect of losing the longtime South Side fixture.

“It’s not just the library at stake here,” Sullivan said. “It’s the whole neighborhood.”

All hoped a solution could be found that can keep the door open.

“It has to,” Jerome said. “It just has to.”

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(26) comments

JW33

The South Branch Library is much more than just a little local community library. Many, many southern La Crosse County residents of all ages use this library, as all of the County branch libraries are much further away. If the city wants to close this wonderful library, perhaps the county could pick it up and keep it open. While the Main Library is great, with terrific programs for youth and adults, and good collections of non-fiction, fiction, audio-books, reference, videos, music, and news media, there are many people, including many seniors, who use the materials, computers, internet access, programs, and reserve items at the South Branch but won't drive downtown and use the more intimidating, bigger library. Libraries provide literacy, information, entertainment, culture, free knowledge, and as another reader commented "a safe place to go" for the rich and the poorest among us. If the city fails, how about making it a La Crosse County Library branch?

LAX Liberty

Hate to condone the many having to pay for the whims of the few. But I'll make you a deal. Cut $5 MILLION of the TIF deals, and crony-capitalist nonsense and you can have your library back. Deal?

Napoleon

Crony-capitalist nonsense in La Crosse... where do you suppose that comes from? Local fat cats who bankroll your GOP!

LAX Liberty

Certainly not MY GOP. (Not a republican and never have been)

I'm afraid TIF recipients come in all political flavors. Crony-capitalism is truly bi-partisan.

younkers

Bad decision in my OPINION.theres not alot of kid friendly places in lacrosse so to take away a place a child can go to learn is always a bad decision.they will probably replace the library with a BAR.

superman

Only1Green - I let the Tribune know that I plan to cancel my online subscriptions if those Ads continue.

Napoleon

There's a better reason to cancel... the Tribune shut down comments on the Nelson opinion letter today because certain commenters mentioned the pedophile priest scandal as reason not to send a child to a Catholic voucher school.

Thumbs down for censorship, La Crosse Tribune. I can understand shutting down comments for abuse, such as racial hatred, but shutting them down to shield institutions from just and proper criticism is cowardly and just plain silly. Where did you go to journalism school, Tribune eds? Iran?

Why parents should not send their kids to a Catholic voucher school:

'Tens of thousands' of children victims of child sexual abuse at the hands of paedophile priests in the Netherlands since 1945."

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2075070/Tens-thousands-children-victims-child-sexual-abuse-hands-paedophile-priests-Netherlands-1945.html

Only1Green

Is anyone else sick of ads popping up when you're readin the article?

kriser_99

I'm going to be silly/sassy here - if you were reading this article in a printed form there would be no pop-ups! :D

But to answer your question, I am not having issues with pop-ups while reading this article. Do you have your browsers pop-up blocker turned on?

Napoleon

...pop-up blockers won't work with these types of pop-ups, for technical reasons too boring to go into here.

LAX Liberty

Moron. Try Ghostery. I haven't seen a pop-up or had to wait for the mountain of useless scripts to load in a long time.

Napoleon

Luce Liberty - 36 minutes ago "Moron. Try Ghostery. I haven't seen a pop-up or had to wait for the mountain of useless scripts to load in a long time."

More untrustworthy gunkware. Not something I'd trust on a development box either. For script kiddies like you who just do web pages, I suppose that it's fine.

LAX Liberty

You are some kind of jack-wagon A-hole aren't you?

Deadwood subscriber

I use pop-up blockers and I clear my cookies.

The Trib will make no money off of me ever since they eliminated the "credit to account" feature as it applies to deadwood subscriptions.

Napoleon

Some of these ads are malware too... run this site on Linux or BSD to be safe. I'm on Win 7 now, switching back and forth between my code and news sites to blog on. NBC News, lots of adware/malware too.

News sites are hurting for revenue, so I don't complain much about the annoyances. But that may change as it gets harder to click past the ads: it's hard to find the close button on some of the ads. Also, clicking anything on the ads risks an attack by malware. My anti-virus software, Avast, picks up a several malware infections emanating from the Tribune site, but I suspect these are harmless or are false positives. Could be wrong, though...

This site is sandboxed on a virtual machine, so no virus can affect anything I have that's important. Final compiles aren't done on the VM, so there's no risk that anything here will mess up my code.

Mack

The savings are only about $3 per La Crosse citizen per year. That's peanuts, especially when you consider how many bars this town has and what they cost the taxpayer with the illth they spread. The libraries are one of the few places a person can go in La Crosse where they do not serve alcohol. The hours should at least be restored, if not extended. If we had more libraries and fewer bars we might be able to save some money on police.

kriser_99

The South Branch library is where I learned my love of reading back in the early 70's. On a personal level, nostalgia seems a good reason to find funding to keep the library open. From an academic standpoint, it is vital for the young people to be able to easily access printed materials, have a quiet environment that encourages ready and study. On a level not considered, resource librarians are educators - they are on top of how to access information via the latest technology and the internet and share that knowledge readily with library patrons. Not only is keeping libraries available doing good for the youth, but they are the future of Lacrosse. Literacy and education, of which a library is a greatest resource in a community, is of utmost importance to the strength and growth of the people and the city. A couple suggestions for income, perhaps city tax on alcohol, approach local businesses, low cost classes in the library to teach the elderly and the young new computer skills

Opus

This was a good budget tactic by the library board. It's the same tactic used by school boards to push through tax levies. "If we don't pass this levy then we will have to cut______."
Well played. You will get what you ask for.

Jobaba

Hire more police dogs. After all, we have a problem with drunk driving in this area.

LaCrosseTaxPayer

Why not close all the branch libraries and use the resources to improve the main library, then open up the high school and College libraries to the public, after all we are paying for the high school and colleges libraries also!!! The city could then sell the land and have houses paying taxes instead of the land costing the taxpayers, maybe we could do the same with about half of the parks we have in this town that are seldom used!!

Opus

Because the last thing high schools need is random people roaming the halls these days. Also, you can use the UWL library.

kriser_99

Because literacy starts at a young age - materials for the younger child are not available at the HS and college level. Improving the main library is a nice idea, but along with that there would need to be safe and affordable transportation put into place to allow children to access it. (ie: more $$) In a neighborhood, a branch library is a nice walk/adventure to a safe place to get "free" stuff, ie: books. Kids like to have "tangable" things. To be able to take home a cool book to read/look at is a great treat for kids and teaches responsibility. (and also/more as important, encourages literacy!) Also, I recognize the lower incomes/financial struggles of some of Lacrosse's taxpayers. They and their children need access to information they couldn't otherwise afford. I know, everyone will have their opinions on this topic, but think of what is good and right -it is not always money.

FUBAR

"materials for the younger child are not available at the HS and college level."

But, they can find all the books they need on their electronic devices. My wife, who is an avid reader does not read paper copies anymore, she uses her NOOK. Me on the other hand I have to read the real deal not some electronic device.Times change people.

kriser_99

Electronic devices have their place but not all families can afford the electronic devices that allow access to all the books they need. It's important for children to understand the technology, however in my opinion, electronic devices offer more distractions and detachment from learning than they provide. I think that electronic devices could be quite helpful for those with learning/reading disabilities - information presented in other ways, but not as beneficial to the general population of students. This year my daughter's HS, gave Ipads to ALL the Junior/Senior students to use. Kids are all about socializing and expressing their (not always positive) opinions at those ages. It doesn't seem to me that putting an Ipad in a students hands all day long is going to be so beneficial to learning. Technology seems in many ways like a double-edged sword.

Deadwood subscriber

As Opus pointed out, all three college libraries are open to the public.

Why do you want to live in a city without parks and libraries?

If you are looking to increase the tax base, tax the houses of worship!

Napoleon

Good news! Minutes ago, I worked out a giveback plan with this city's Corporate Welfare Kings: they're giving back some of the TIF money they stole from city property taxpayers to fund the South Branch Library!

How did I do it? I showed our local crony capitalists what happened in Chicago... that city, to fund billions in TIFs for Chicago Loop fat cats, has closed dozens of schools, defunded the cops, defunded, yes, wait for it.. the libraries. You always knew that I would deliver, didn't you? Call me a genius, call me whatever,.. I'll accept my accolades now!

"Promise everything. Deliver nothing" - Napoleon Bonaparte

Chicago: "TIF Abuse Buoys Downtown Fat Cats, As Neighborhoods Suffer"

http://www.progressillinois.com/posts/content/2011/12/05/tif-abuse-buoys-downtown-fat-cats-neighborhoods-suffer

"CTU 'Stand Up To The Fat Cats' Video Mocks Chicago Mayor, Education Reformers"

www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/11/ctu-stand-up-to-the-fat-cats_n_2277162.html

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