Rockford Public Library Board faced with tough choice on closing some branches

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — The financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is being felt where many residents go for peace and quiet.

We spoke with Rockford Public Library trustees who say that branches may need to close in order to make room for the library’s new main building, which is scheduled to open in the next few years.

“I have been to my library every day this last week getting books to supplement our homeschool curriculums, even utilizing books and getting a free curriculum that way through our library,” said one parent.

Rockford Public Library branches could soon see a change of season.

“This is a very difficult decision to ride aline the library’s resources and service offerings to the community in the most effective and equitable way possible for the entire community. It’s a complicated decision, the board was not prepared to vote on it tonight because we’d like to get more feedback from the community,” said Rockford Public Libary Board Chair Oliver Baer.

The Library Board of Trustees met Monday to discuss pivoting the organization’s service model. Trustees are considering shutting down the Rock River and Rockton Centre branches. Board Chair Oliver Baer says the potential shift is a result of challenges brought on by the pandemic.

“Dealing with COVID has a repercussion effect on our finances and we have to make hard decisions in order to be able to exist for the library and community in the future,” Baer explained.

If the board doesn’t vote to consolidate buildings, they could cut back operating hours instead. An outlined proposal would have branches reduce service hours by 50%.

“If you can’t find the money, I would definitely say leave the libraries alone and just reduce the hours. If that’s what you have to do, that’s what you have to do,” said Rockford resident Kathy Kelly.

Both options would require cutting staff. Half a dozen community members voiced their concerns on Monday and the board is urging more residents to speak out.

“Contact the library and tell us what your opinions are. If its no we don’t want to have branch closures, or no we don’t want to reduce hours or look at these other revenue streams, we’d love to hear from the community so thank you in advance,” said Baer.

The Library Board is expected to vote on the options at the next meeting on October 26th. Community members can send comments and concerns to board members.

You can find their contact information here.

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