Bedford Library branch seeks to renew mileage

The Bedford Library branch is asking the township to consider placing a current mile on the ballot to ensure funding through 2028. At its meeting this week, the Bedford Township Board of Directors invited representatives

The Bedford Library branch is asking the township to consider placing a current mile on the ballot to ensure funding through 2028.

At its meeting this week, the Bedford Township Board of Directors invited representatives from the Bedford Branch Library to offer information on a possible mileage renewal in the November ballot. The $0.25 million currently funds general operations and capital improvements to the library.

Denise Ellsworth, Treasurer of the Library Advisory Board, provided background information on what the current mileage, which Bedford voters approved in 2018, has funded so far. Upgrades included HVAC updates, new quiet study rooms, carpeting and more.

Ellsworth said renewing the mileage would generate about $300,000 per year for the next 5 years. She said that since the township owns the library branch and is responsible for its upkeep, it is up to council to put it on the ballot. Potential improvements were also presented in list form to the board and included various technology, security, disability accessibility and landscape projects.

Jodi Russ, community librarian at the Bedford branch, explained that technology hasn’t made local libraries obsolete.

“I know a lot of people wonder why libraries still exist and if libraries are used when you can find everything you need elsewhere,” she said. “I wanted to assure people that we are almost back to our pre-pandemic numbers.”

Russ said digital library services continue to grow to about 18% of the branch’s total circulation. This includes e-books and other digital media, available free to library card holders.

Russ added that community involvement remains strong and 12,341 people participated in Bedford branch programs in 2022, which includes outreach events in schools and other community locations.

Russ also reported that the branch’s meeting rooms, which can be booked by other organizations, continue to be heavily used and the community room was booked 32 times in June alone.

The library’s new quiet study rooms also saw heavy use, Russ added.

“They’ve been very popular with students and those taking online training,” she said.

Russ then noted that the library is an important community resource for helping children learn to read and socialize with other children.

“Socialization is a big issue for every age group,” she said. “We do all kinds of programs for that.”

Other activities at the library, such as yoga and tai chi classes and the genealogy club, promote general human interaction.

“Human beings are meant to relate to each other, and I’ve struggled to do that for the past few years,” she said. “We are a great place to do that.”

Administrator Todd Bruning then asked Russ what the library planned to do if a mileage renewal failed.

Russ said if that doesn’t pass, the township’s general fund is responsible for maintenance. Currently, the library has enough money to operate for about 2.5 more years.

Administrator Craig Montri said he thinks the previous mileage money should have lasted longer – around 8 years by his estimate. Montri questioned the need for a recent carpet replacement, which cost around $140,000.

“We should have been better stewards…with the current mileage,” Montri said.

However, Russ explained that the current balance and the money from 2022 could probably last 8 years, which would meet Montri’s expectations.

The board took no action at the meeting, as the presentation by the library was only a proposal for future board support and action. An actual resolution to put mileage renewal on the November ballot would occur at a later board meeting.