It looks like nothing was able to stop the Detroit Public Library from closing four branch libraries today. The Monteith, Richard, Lincoln, and Mark Twain locations were all shut down today.
It’s uncertain what will happen with the buildings, but for now the plan is to board them up and redistribute the collections to the remaining Detroit Public Library system locations.
The Detroit Library Commission decided to close the branches in a meeting they held last month. The DPL has faced declining tax revenues and had to lay off staff earlier this year and also has a large number of employees entering retirement. The net result is around 200 fewer staff trying to keep the same facilities operating.
The Library Commission decided that closing branches and relocating staff to the remaining locations was the best choice available.
The communities served by the closed branches will definitely be impacted. The libraries being shut down have been around for 50-90 years. The Monteith Branch has been serving the community since 1926. It’s extremely sad to see these historic libraries going away.
Detroit is facing a financial catastrophe right now with many believing the city will go into bankruptcy very soon. The city is trying to deal with a shrinking population and drastically reduced tax revenues. The city will have to prioritize which government services are most important to their citizens as they are forced to deal with their financial reality.
Elected officials have cut library budgets in many cities this year only to see the voters revolt with outrage and initiatives to preserve library budgets. Los Angeles and New York are the two biggest examples.
Hopefully the people of Detroit will decide that their libraries are a high priority like voters in so many other cities have this last year. If they do we might see an initiative to restore library funding that could re-open the branches. If they don’t then we can probably expect to see more Detroit library closures in the future.