Check-Out Time 

City efficiency study recommends library closures.

Beale Street worker Reginald Matthews, 37, walks to the downtown Cossitt Library from his job every day. "I use the computer a lot," he says. "I read my USA Today. It's so quiet. It's a relief from the rest of downtown."

But the Cossitt Library is one of five branches listed for closure in a recent study.

At a committee meeting last week, members of the Memphis City Council heard a presentation on the $700,000 efficiency study conducted by Deloitte Consulting. The 189-page study suggested changes to the Fire and Police departments, including hiring more civilians to work at the Memphis Police Department and firing more than 200 city firefighters.

What wasn't mentioned in the presentation was the study's suggestion to close five Memphis Public Library and Information Center branches — Cossitt, Levi, Gaston Park, Highland, and Poplar-White Station — a suggestion that has drawn criticism in local media.

Linda Crump, a retired school librarian who often brings her grandchildren to various branches, calls the suggestion "a bad idea."

"[The five branches are] all in high use, especially Poplar-White Station," she says. "Libraries, swimming pools, and community centers keep neighborhoods going."

According to the study, the library closures could save the city $1.1 million, most of which would come from salaries and benefits. The study proposes allocating the savings back to the library system.

The study suggests that the five branches should be closed due to their lack of physical space and their proximity to other library branches. All five are smaller than 15,000 square feet, the amount of space the study says is necessary to provide a full range of services. With the exception of Poplar-White Station, all fall more than 5,000 square feet below the standard.

Toni Holmon-Turner, public relations representative from the mayor's office, says that the branches might not be closed. "These [closures] were recommended by a private organization. Just because it's in the study doesn't mean it will take place," she says.

Robert Lipscomb, the city's chief financial officer, concurs. "You could have a school closing and a library closing, and you could close the community center in the same area and you don't want that. ... We have to make sure they don't go out at the same time. We need to look at everything within the context of what we've got."

For Matthews, that is good news. After Cossitt, the next nearest library branch is Cornelia Crenshaw on Vance, a two-mile walk from Beale. "[Mayor Willie Herenton] wants to build a new stadium and we only have one football team. I'd rather have a library than a stadium," he says.

The City Council is expected to make a decision on the study June 19th.


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