How to voice your opinion on Champaign library fee

I've gotten more responses from readers about the Champaign Public Library's plan to charge residents of the Tolono and Mahomet library districts $200 annually to check out Champaign materials than maybe any other story I've written in my short career. And the debate seems to be pretty robust on both sides.

I'll stay on top of it for you, but for those who want a voice in the process, there are two meetings coming up that you would be interested in.

The first is tonight at 5:30 p.m. in the Robeson Pavilion rooms at the Champaign Public Library, 200 W. Green St. There, the library's board of trustees will convene their regular monthly meeting to discuss regular library business. There's nothing on that agenda specifically about the $200 annual fee, but there is a public input period where attendees of the public meeting can address the board on any library issue.

The second is Monday, Sept. 20, at 7 p.m. at the Lincoln Trail Libraries System headquarters, 1704 W. Interstate Dr., C. (at the corner of Mattis Avenue and Interstate Drive, north of I-74, but before you hit the I-57 overpass). There, the Lincoln Trail Libraries System board of directors will meet for their monthly meeting. I have yet to see an agenda for this meeting, but the board president earlier this month told me that I should expect a discussion of the Champaign fee to be a specific agenda item. The Lincoln Trail Libraries System is the body that coordinates interlibrary loans and the exchange of materials between the region's libraries.

I'll be at both of these meetings to see what those affected will have to say. Feel free to approach me at the either of meetings (I'll be the guy with the reporter's notebook). Or post your comments below, e-mail me or send me a message on Twitter.

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Minerva wrote on September 17, 2010 at 8:09 am

I heard that Champaign Library Board President Rusty Freeland described the recent decision to charge a $200 out-of-district fee as an "experiment" on a "6-month trial period." What happens if I pay the $200, then 6 months later the experiment fails and they drop the fee. Do I get my $200 back? Does everyone? If 5,000 residents paid $200 each for this card, the Champaign Library would raise a quick $1 million. Are they planning to return that to those who participated in their experiment?

Another question one might ask is, "How is it possible that there is so little discussion about the recent letter from the Illinois State Library at the Champaign Public Library board meeting? Why was the public not told the contents of the letter? Have the other board members simply entrusted the handling of this issue to President Rusty Freeland and Library Director Marsha Grove? Were they not curious enough to even ask what the letter was about and to offer an opinion on how to respond? Or is there discussion going on behind the scenes between board members, which would be a clear violation of the Open Meetings Act, to which all public and township library boards are subject.

Finally, The Champaign Public Library is violating not only the spirit of the law in terms of resource sharing, but the letter of the law as well. The spirit of the law is that “Lend to reciprocal borrowers all materials in any format, as generously as possible.” Are they really being as generous as possible? The new policy, which the Champaign Public Library was instrumental in drafting and passing, says, “A library which experiences an imbalance as a net lender in reciprocal borrowing may restrict access by the users of those libraries who have created a significant imbalance for the lending library. A significant imbalance is defined as a local library serving less than 60% of local borrower need.” The definition of restrict is: “to confine or keep within limits, as of space, action, choice, intensity, or quantity.” Perhaps they should have used “prohibit,” “disallow,” “forbid,” “prevent,” or “cut off” so their intentions would have been more clear. As the policy stands, a reasonable person would assume that restrict means to limit or reduce. Had the Lincoln Trail Libraries System board known the Champaign Public Libraries intention, they may not have approved this new policy which was passed at a Lincoln Trails Library System board meeting at which there was barely a quorum.

These are the tough questions the media should be asking.