Residents protest library cuts - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

Residents protest library cuts

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Rhonda Hooks Rhonda Hooks

Mary Milz/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - A budget-cutting proposal to close six Marion County library branches is meeting heavy opposition.

A spokesperson for the library administration says library CEO Laura Bramble has received at least 30 letters, including one from Congressman Andre Carson.

"I was deeply troubled to learn that two of the four cost-cutting plans...involve shuttering branches in local neighborhoods in need.... The local library in these areas is often the only affordable outlet for expanding knowledge and educational opportunities for residents," Carson wrote.

Flanner House Library on Martin Luther King Jr. Street is one of the branches that could close. While it's the city's smallest branch, plans to shelve it are creating a big uproar.

"It's devastating. Everyone is upset, very upset," said Rhonda Hooks.

Antina Powell, who said she uses the library daily, noted, "Some of us don't have transportation to get to the other libraries. It will be very hard if they take this away from the community."

Besides serving an economically-challenged area, the branch is attached to a K-6 charter school.

"Our children use this library on a daily basis for resources. The next closest would be downtown, but as far as transportation, it's not possible," said Principal Latika Warthaw.

News of the possible closure comes as the city steps up efforts to revitalize the MLK corridor.

Friday morning city and community leaders held a ceremonial groundbreaking for a $2 million streetscape project stretching from I-65 to Fall Creek.

MLK will go from four lanes to two with a turn lane in the middle and on-street parking.

Meg Storrow, a landscape architect with Storrow Kinsella Associates, said the new design "allows traffic to slow down and see the neighborhood businesses and see that they can park and go in there."

The project also includes new crosswalks, signage and gateway towers.

While vacant buildings are still a problem, new businesses are slowly moving in. Wendy Cooper, the senior project manager, described the long-term vision as "a place that has restaurants that are locally owned and businesses that reflect the neighborhood and community here."

She and others said the library was presumed to be a key anchor as the area undergoes redevelopment. Even Mayor Greg Ballard was surprised to hear it might close.

"Libraries in poor areas are extremely important. I don't like to hear about libraries closing in distressed areas," said Mayor Ballard.

While the city has no authority over the library system because it is a municipal corporation, the mayor said there might be some things the city can do.

He said he planned to offer help "through some of the people we have on our staff. Like I've said we're pretty good at getting blood out of a turnip in the way this administration looks at process and contracts."

Like others in the area, Angela Sallee, who manages a funeral home, said she's keeping the faith.

"Faith and fear cannot occupy the same space, so when I heard about [the branch possibly closing] I thought maybe [the MLK streetscape project] can help that. So I'm hoping they realize how important it is to the community," said Sallee.

Library trustees will hold two public meetings in May before voting on the cost-cutting measures in June.

As for the MLK project, construction is expected to begin in a week or two with completion by year's end. 

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