The Iowa House has rejected a bid to consolidate the state’s regional libraries, a move that could have saved the state up to $600,000. That proposal and others were considered today as House members finished debate on a 300-page bill that seeks to reorganize state government and save millions in the process.
Representative Mary Mascher, a Democrat from Iowa City, says it makes no sense to maintain seven different telephone systems, seven different checking accounts and nine different long-range plans for the regional libraries. “What we are hoping to accomplish in this is a more streamlined, effective, efficient system,” Mascher says. “….This will not effect those individuals who are receiving that service in their small libraries. They will continue to maintain that level of service.”
But a majority of House members rejected the consolidation plan. Representative McKinley Bailey, a Democrat from Webster City, says rural libraries are concerned about the proposal.
“In speaking with local librarians, they have great concerns about turning control of these support systems over to the State Library,” Bailey says. “They do not view the State Library as being as responsive to the needs of small libraries as the regional system is.” Representative Lance Horback, a Republican from Tama, says librarians in his area opposed the consolidation.
“We have a system that’s not broken,” Horback says. “…We’re going into things that aren’t broken and we’re breaking them.” The House voted to keep the regional library system in place. During the House debate, several lawmakers said they’d received calls and e-mail from librarians and library backers over the past weekend.
Representative Dolores Mertz, a Democrat, is from the small, north central Iowa town of Ottosen. “I heard from people from all over my district on this issue,” Mertz said. “I think the underlying current is the small-town librarians have built up such a great rapport with the regional library people that they trust them. They know that they will get the things they need from them.” Mascher made a last ditch effort to get her colleagues to support the consolidation of regional libraries.
“We’ve got to do better with the dollars we get from the taxpayers,” Mascher said, “and having us go back to the status quo is not the solution.” Mascher was voted down, though, and regional libraries were preserved.
In other action, the House did vote to close the State Medical Library in Des Moines. The University of Iowa maintains a much bigger medical library, with more journals and up-to-date materials. Earlier this afternoon, the House endorsed the entire state government reorganization package on a 95 to zero vote. Senators now will review changes House members made in the bill.