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Supporters won’t close book on Gary library closing

Updated: July 6, 2012 9:52AM



GARY — Still hoping to overturn last year’s decision to close the main branch of the Gary Public Library, a group of residents is rallying support at a 6 p.m. Tuesday forum at Indiana University Northwest.

The meeting will be in the Bergland Auditorium in Savannah Hall.

Ben Coleman, spokesman for the Citizens to Save the Gary Public Library, said representatives from the Indiana State Library will attend the meeting.

“The public forum should have been held before the Gary Library Board decided to turn the main branch into a museum,” said Coleman. The group is calling for a halt to construction and remodeling as the library is transformed into a cultural center and museum, and a freeze on contracts.

The library board voted 4-3 to shut down the main library in March 2011. State property tax caps cut the library system’s budget in half, leading to the library’s closure.

Since then, residents have launched petition drives, tried to secure a court injunction and lobbied to remove board members.

The group was successful in removing Lake County Council appointee Cynthia Watts who voted with the majority bloc to close the main library.

The residents are requesting the Gary School Board remove its appointments to the board, as well.

“We asked for a recall hearing four times,” Lavetta Tindal said at a May 22 school board meeting. She accused the library board members of misrepresenting the public. “We have no confidence in these persons.”

School Board President Darren Washington said the school board didn’t see the need for a recall vote. The school board has three appointments on the library board.

The latest tactic by library board members who opposed the closing is to boycott board meetings, making it difficult to conduct official business.

During the uproar, library director Otis Alexander resigned and the board has been unable to appoint an interim director because it has lacked a quorum.

By turning the main library into a cultural center and museum, library board members hope to save money in staffing and operations while still offering a resource to the community.



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