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Library Task Force To Present Final Recommendations

The task force that's been meeting the last several months to look at options for the Mecklenburg County library system will be presenting its final recommendations tonight to county commissioners and the library board. Among them is a proposal to give more money to the libraries next year and, if that doesn't happen, to close several branches. Last year the county cut $10 million from the libraries to plug a massive budget shortfall. The task force says if $2 million of that funding is restored to the libraries, regional branches could be open 6 days a week. Right now, they're only open four. That's the preference of the task force, but if getting extra money for the libraries is out of the question the group's recommendation is not one that will go over well with the public. "We would eliminate some of the existing branches, which no one wants to do. But given the alternative that's the best of the two choices," says task force chairman Jim Woodward. Woodward says operating regional branches such as University City and Morrison on their current limited schedule is not acceptable. The task force would recommend closing up to all but three of the system's smaller neighborhood branches. The three that would stay open are Scaleybark, Sugar Creek, and West Boulevard because they serve low-income neighborhoods. Again, the task force would prefer not to close any libraries, but that will require at least an additional $2 million from the county. So far the Mecklenburg County budget is in better shape this year, but officials don't expect to have much more money to work with.