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The Cannelton Library’s recent decision to pursue a merger with the Tell City-Perry County Library is good news for patrons of both in the short term, but there could be problems in the future.
Both library buildings would remain open, and patrons of each would have access to all the volumes of both. Though the Tell City library is larger, each has some books that the other does not. So that means patrons of both libraries would have more choices of reading material.
Funding for both libraries comes entirely from the state and, like many other state agencies, both were facing budget cuts. Cannelton already struggles to add more volumes and maintain employee hours.
The budget cuts for the smaller Cannelton Library were so severe that it would likely have to close without the merger. So it was the Cannelton Library — not Tell City — that sought the merger.
Sally Walker, director of the Cannelton Library, said, “During a recent visit to the library, State Rep. Russ Stilwell stated that under the current economic conditions, (state) revenues will continue to decline and that the library has a choice — merge with Tell City-Perry County Library or close. Our only option for survival is to merge.”
Walker also stressed, “A merger would not force the library facility in Cannelton to close. A merger would result in the Cannelton Public Library and the Tell City-Perry County Library being two units of a larger county library system. A branch will continue to be operated in Cannelton. Perry County residents would be able to use the more convenient location.”
Again that sounds good for patrons of both, and if that remains the case for many years to come, both will benefit. And it would be good to see the two communities cooperate on a venture that helps both.
But what if state revenues remain low for the next few years, library budgets are cut even more, and eventually the board of the merged libraries can no longer afford to keep both facilities staffed? In that case the smaller Cannelton facility would undoubtedly be the one that would close.
If that happens, will Cannelton residents remember that it was Cannelton that sought the merger and that the Cannelton Library would have closed years earlier without the merger? Or will they incorrectly think that Tell City forced the merger and it was merely a ploy to close the Cannelton library?
At a Nov. 3 meeting between some members of the two library boards to discuss the merger resolution, Tell City board member Colleen Smith raised some of those concerns. “What happens if we determine that we can’t keep the additional employees (at Cannelton) based on the funds we have and have to close the building up there and have the bookmobile visit?” she asked.
Jeff Fuqua, a member of the Cannelton board, replied that he doesn’t think anyone expects this to be “the solution for the next 150 years.” But if it will keep the Cannelton building open “for the foreseeable future, I am inclined to say this has been a good step forward.”
So both sides seem to be going into the merger discussions with their eyes wide open as to what all their options are.
We hope that remains the case and that if the merger is finalized, it works well for both.
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