Iowa Senate Bill Study 3131 has been a cause of concern for members of Gibson Memorial Library’s board of trustees.
When first introduced, the study changed the wording regarding a tax levy from “shall” to “may,” thus not requiring cities or counties to fund public libraries. Since then, that aspect of the study has been shut down.
“That is what compels our contracting cities to give us money. It’s what compels the city of Creston to give us money and local government is our biggest funder,” Gibson Memorial Library Director Danielle Dickinson Thaden said. “We get little bits of money from several pots, but that’s our revenue runner, so it’s so important that that was struck down.”
However, another part concerning the board remains. Two new sections have been added, stating “a city may later the composition, manner of selection, or charge of a library board by ordinance.”
Additionally, it touches on materials owned by the library, stating that the city shall take title of these starting July 1, 2025.
Dickinson Thaden believes this part of the study is due to actions taken in Pella in November. A number of Pella residents requested the novel “Gender Queer: A Memoir” be removed from the city library. A resulting referendum, which would have placed much of that library’s regulating into the hands of Pella City Council, was not passed. About 51% of voters were against the measure.
Ann Coulter, president of the library board in Creston, said moving the role of trustee member to the city council would take away voters’ rights.
“We’re a board who went from five to nine members because we went to the public and got the vote to do that. In what they’re proposing, city council could change that at any time at any moment,” Coulter said. “Why would you want to do that, why would you want to take away the will of your community users to a group of small people? I don’t think most of the councils want to be able to do that either, but that’s a huge piece in communities where there’s already disputes.”
Dickinson Thaden agreed, explaining why a specific library board is more qualified.
“You are appointed by the city to begin with and you are active because you care about the library,” Dickinson Thaden said. “It’s something that you are specially trained for. They ask you to have three to five hours of library training every year so that you are well-informed about library business and can therefore act as a strong trustee.”
Board members said they would oppose the bill study.
In other library news...
Though January was a slow month due to precipitation and temperatures, Dickinson Thaden said the overall circulation of materials was up from last year.
The library hopes to start construction on the pavilion by the end of February, with a dedication event occurring during National Library Week in April.