”My general comment during the budget process is we’re all having to make allowances,” Birtell said.
She believes personnel can be saved by not replacing part-time college students currently working for her. The frustrating part, she says, is that department heads worked diligently this year to prepare a budget creating a $143,000 surplus, which will be used to cover a court settlement between Clinton and Archer Daniels Midland.
When city leaders opted to cut out the Emergency Levy two weeks ago (reducing the overall levy by 27 cents), departments maneuvered to fit their budgets underneath. Birtell said she was surprised to learn during the final city budget workshop that her department took the brunt.
”I didn’t know we were going to take the biggest hit,” she said. “I thought that we were going to be working it out in some way... I didn’t realize the breakdown with departments.”
She added that limiting the Lyons Branch is not a permanent fix to city problems. In fact, the deed received by Clinton when it obtained the branch in the 1950s specifies the facility can only be used for library purposes.
Library officials also feel there is a cultural impact. Those like Mary Bertrand say a reduced version of the Lyons Branch takes a toll on the surrounding community.
”It’s sad. You see it as one more thing having to go away with the economy and tough situations,” said Bertrand, an assistant cataloguer. The branch reminds her of childhood on the north end, a hangout place for youths in its heyday. “You really get to know people more up at Lyons.”
Birtell holds optimism that Clinton residents will still get to utilize the library in some capacity. Since the space falls under her jurisdiction, Birtell said ideas like using Lyons Branch for a bulk of programming are being discussed. She’s also researching other libraries that have been re-purposed following closure.