Government

Alburnett holding public forum to discuss leaving Metro Library Network

City may decide to contract with Center Point instead

An audience member rests on a copy of The Book Thief at a reading by Markus Zusak presented by Linn Area Reads at The Ki
An audience member rests on a copy of The Book Thief at a reading by Markus Zusak presented by Linn Area Reads at The Kirkwood Hotel in Cedar Rapids on Sun. Mar. 13, 2016. The Metro Library Network also announced the lineup for the upcoming Out Loud! Author Series. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

The city of Alburnett is considering not renewing its contract with the Metro Library Network.

Alburnett will host a public forum at 7 p.m. Monday at City Hall to engage the community in the decision-making process.

The Metro Library Network, created in 1999, provides and shares materials and services across the Cedar Rapids metro area’s libraries.

Alburnett has a contract with the network to provide library services for Alburnett residents as the city does not have its own library.

With the current contract, all Alburnett residents have free access to metro network libraries in Cedar Rapids, Marion and Hiawatha. If the city decides to not renew, the residents would not be able to receive a library card from any of the metro network libraries.

Instead, Alburnett is considering entering into a contract with Andersen Center Point Public Library, according to a city news release.

“It really is the responsibility of the mayor and the council to make sure we are being good stewards of our resources,” Alburnett Mayor Bethany Sarazin told The Gazette on Friday. “We really are just doing our due diligence to explore options to reduce our expense for a service that is not being utilized by 80 percent of our residents.”

According to the contract, Alburnett’s annual expense with the Metro Library Network is $22,653.38. The rate will increase to $26,038.37 if the contract term continues.

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The city’s proposed contract with Center Point is for library services at a rate of $0.30/$1,000 of assessed taxable value, the news release said. The minimum required by state law is $0.07/$1,000.

If Alburnett switches to the new contract, the annual cost would be around $8,180.99.

The nearby cities of Urbana and Walker contract through Center Point.

Additionally, if the city enters into a contract with Center Point, the Metro Library Network may choose to deny services to residents of Alburnett. That decision is up to the boards of the Cedar Rapids, Marion and Hiawatha libraries.

Cedar Rapids Public Library Director Dara Schmidt said she is confident that the Cedar Rapids, Marion and Hiawatha library boards would vote to deny services if Alburnett decides to switch contracts.

“If they want to use our service, they have to pay for our service,” Schmidt said. “If they want to go somewhere else, that’s totally fine, but they don’t get to use our service and not pay for it.”

In an email to Alburnett library cardholders, the Metro Library Services informed recipients of the possible change.

Additionally, the email points out that this year, the network piloted a project with Cedar Rapids Community Schools and the Marion Independent School District to offer student IDs as automatic library cards for all enrolled students.

“We intend to work with the Alburnett Schools to expand this project next school year, which we will not be able to do if the city cancels the contract,” the email reads.

In 2013, the boards of the three network libraries voted to stop providing new library cards to residents of Palo after the network and Palo City Council failed to reach an agreement on a contract for services.

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“I’m a resident of Alburnett, a mother of children and a frequent library user,” Sarazin said. “I know change is hard, but we, as a City Council, really have a responsibility of making sure we are financially responsible with not only our costs now, but also looking toward the future.”

Sarazin said that no decision will be made during Monday night’s hearing, but a City Council decision may come in March.

“I’m excited for the forum,” Sarazin said. “We see it as an opportunity to provide transparency, to dispel disinformation and to get feedback.

Comments: (319) 398-8255; gage.miskimen@thegazette.com

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