By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
ALLEN PARK – Officials who once wondered whether to allow the city’s library to leave the Wayne County Library System voted unanimously Tuesday to keep it right where it is.
Allen Park Library Commission members voted unanimously Wednesday to rescind a request to withdraw from the county library system. Commission members in attendance included Carol Meyers, Miriam Winkler, Susan White, Secretary Terri Hagen and Vice Chairwoman Maria Lalli.
Some Allen Park Public Library employees initially hoped that eliminating the administration fee paid to the county system might free up city-budgeted funds to pay a third librarian, which in turn would allow the library to meet residents’ requests by adding hours of operation.
Director and librarian Sandi Blakney had presented the idea of going independent during a September work session with Mayor Gary Burtka, the City Council and the Library Commission. She said the city is charged an administrative fee by the county, and that amount could be better spent to more directly benefit the library.
Wayne County library representative Maria McCarville was present Wednesday to support Allen Park library staff, volunteers and supporters and to answer questions.
The commission’s vote now will be forwarded to the City Council in the form of meeting minutes and motion in hopes that it will be tabled, despite a Plante & Moran study that alluded to the library for possible fiscal friendly change.
Some library employees and residents have said leaving the county system could leave librarian positions vulnerable to political appointment by a mayor and subject to City Council approval, making library leaders vulnerable to unemployment fears with each election cycle. Such a situation, they believe, is particularly troubling in a weak economy.
Unanswered questions about the possible impact on seniority from a switch to city jurisdiction also are a concern. System rules currently allow librarians with seniority from locations that close to replace lesser-tenured employees in other communities.
“We weren’t going at it as a ‘saving money’ perspective,” Blakney said of her reasons for bringing the request to city leaders last month. “We have a budget. The library itself is in good financial shape.
“We were looking at it as, ‘Here is $60,000 (in administrative fees). Where can you get the best value for this $60,000?’”
“The county just comes up with their amount every month and charges the cities,” she said. “For $60,000 you could get a full-time librarian.”
That would enable the library to be open up to six days a week year-round, including mornings, which many residents have requested. Blakney and teen librarian Karen Smith also noted that two-year employee Joseph Wasukanis, currently an assistant, recently became a degreed librarian and could become full time if the library went on its own.
Currently, some 11,000 to 12,000 residents are active library cardholders.
Blakney said that without a city library, residents could lose “the programs and the philosophy,” but that the county system tries to accommodate cities that have a particular budget or millage constraints.