|By Betsy Bloom, La Crosse Tribune, Wis.</b>|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
A crowd at least 200 strong so packed the
All but one of the roughly 40 who spoke told the board they consider the north and south branch libraries vital to their neighborhoods, a safe gathering place for children or seniors that's close enough to walk or bike, unlike the main library downtown.
"Closing a branch is taking away from people who may not have the means to get downtown,"
Several said the branch sites factored into their decision to buy a home in those parts of the city. "I view them as a quality of life issue here in
Yet the library continues to handle more circulation than institutions in similar-sized
The board last year again tapped its reserves to keep the
Several in the audience took aim at library Director
"It looks like a plan to kill these branches," one man said.
Krieg-Sigman said she was looking for input on what might be the best hours for the sites, recognizing a straight
But most simply said cutting branch hours by half was too much for what they see as an essential neighborhood service.
Additional money might be found by approaching
"How can we get the county,"
Several favored a combined library and senior center, or some other joint use of the sites. Others called for boosting fundraising efforts or even by going to the voters with a referendum on whether they'd be willing to pay more taxes to ensure the branch sites survive.
Some suggested trimming staffing, programs or services at the main library instead, such as a 1 percent, across-the-board pay cut. The library now has a nearly
"I think everyone has to sacrifice," one woman said, "not just the branches."
Another woman tossed out, "do a keg tax."
That drew a laugh from Krieg-Sigman, who said afterwards she was pleased with the amount of participation.
"We've gotten some valuable input," she said.
The library board has two more such listening sessions set for
"Everyone needs to come and listen and bring suggestions," Richmond said.
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