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Library's worst case scenario: close community branches

http://66.225.205.104/LM20100506.mp3

Charlotte Mecklenburg Library officials will close all 16 smaller community branches, if the county cuts the library budget in half. The board made that decision yesterday although a formal vote hasn't been taken. Closing the 16 branches would leave eight of the larger regional libraries open. Those include the main library and Imaginon uptown. Library Director Charles Brown says the board weighed a few options, including keeping all branches open between one and three days a week, before settling on this one. "The regionals are strategically located throughout Mecklenburg County. They have our largest collections, the most computers, the most parking," says Brown. "They just seemed to be the most logical approach to take in terms of trying to serve as much of the community as possible with reduced financial resources." Brown and the library board still hope the county cuts less than the $17 million they've been asked to prepare for. Library officials have also asked the City of Charlotte and all the towns in the county to chip in, but they haven't heard back. The library won't know how much it has to work with next year until the county commission adopts a budget June 15. If the cuts are less than $17 million the board will decide which other branches to keep open. Library board Chair Robin Branstrom says there are several factors the board should consider. They include a branch's cost verses number of users, proximity to a regional library and the percentage of households in the area with incomes less than $50,000. "We need to be very deliberate and very thoughtful in deciding which ones that can be added back because no matter what we do it's not going to be a particularly popular choice," says Branstrom. At yesterday's board meeting, trustee Molly Griffin suggested looking into naming rights for branches. Brown says that would be more of a long-term strategy than one that could help out next year.