The Charlotte Mecklenburg Library sent a press release today with encouraging news: The City of Charlotte, as well as surrounding towns, seem willing to pitch in funds to help keep the libraries open. Only three branches are now slated to be closed: Checkit Outlet (downtown Charlotte), Carmel, and the Belmont Center.

Meanwhile, library officials have met with representatives of all the towns in Mecklenburg County to see what kind of level of involvement towns can make toward keeping libraries open. The City of Charlotte, which has eight libraries, has offered to pitch in. And surrounding towns also seem interested. At last night’s Mint Hill Board of Commissioners meeting, Mayor Ted Biggers said the town is interested in helping the library, but only if it is fair across the board. The library is asking for a total of $3 million from the towns and Charlotte. However, Pineville and Huntersville will most likely not participate because they do not  have branches located in the town limits. (Carmel is located just outside of Pineville, and North County Regional in Huntersville is not one of the libraries that could have potentially closed.)

That leaves Mint Hill, Matthews, Cornelius, Davidson and Charlotte to come up with the $3 million. Biggers said last night he would hope Charlotte would pay most of the $3 million since it has eight libraries located in its city limits. He also noted that towns in North Carolina are not obligated by the state constitution to having a library. However, they are open to possible solutions.

“We are going to explore every option,” he said.

Commissioner Lloyd Austin said giving the library more money amounts to double taxation to the citizens.

Here is the unedited press release sent by the library:

Charlotte, NC – As the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library continues to work toward its Sustainability Plan, the Library is getting tremendous support from the towns in Mecklenburg County. Representatives from the towns and the Library have met three times, and the towns have shown a commitment to work with each other and the Library in a unified effort to preserve library service in the community. The Library would like to thank the Town Managers of Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville, Matthews, Mint Hill, and Pineville for coming to the table.

The Library is also heartened by recent support from City of Charlotte leaders, including statements by Mayor Anthony Foxx and City Councilman Edwin Peacock. Both Foxx and Peacock spoke at a City Budget Adjustments meeting on May 12, in favor of giving the County one-time financial help to support libraries. Peacock was quoted in the Charlotte Observer as saying, “They [citizens] don’t know that this is a county library. They just know that they are picking up a book. I support the mayor’s idea on this.”

In further progress toward the Sustainability Plan, Library staff and board members continue to meet with County staff and commissioners in an ongoing dialogue about the Library’s funding situation. As part of that dialogue, agreements are being developed to consolidate two Library departments – Security and Maintenance – with the County.

Regarding the three locations slated to be closed as part of the Sustainability Plan (Carmel, Checkit Outlet and Belmont Center), Library staff have begun formulating closure plans; with the goal of vacating those buildings by June 30. The fourth branch affected will be Beatties Ford Road, which is currently under renovation, and will be temporarily closed to expedite renovation so that it eventually can replace Freedom Regional as the regional library on the West side.

The Library board continues to remain optimistic about the Sustainability Plan, while also making plans for the “worst case” scenario; a 50% cut in funding from Mecklenburg County. In preparation for that possibility, the Library notified over 200 of its 387 remaining employees that their positions were identified as potential to be eliminated. Though this has been a difficult process, the Library is committed to giving its employees time to plan ahead.

If the Library is able to achieve all components of the Sustainability Plan, we will be able to serve all regions of the County; continue current hours and service levels; keep more employees, retaining institutional knowledge; be well-positioned for potential donors; and expand use of volunteers beyond the approximate 1,000 currently serving. Here is a brief recap of the Library Sustainability Plan, with corresponding dollar amounts: