December 19, 2014

Elyria
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Elyria library plans levy, faces challenging campaign

ELYRIA — The Elyria Public Library System will place a 1.9-mill levy on the May ballot to be seen by voters in both Elyria and Keystone school districts.

Passing the levy may be unusually difficult for the library, which will have to educate voters about the nuances of the levy that are different for various communities served by the library.

Lyn Crouse, the library’s director, said instead of focusing on the difficulties a new state law has imposed on the Elyria library, she will concentrate on the successes in past elections.

“I just keep hanging my hat on the fact that Ohioans love their libraries,” Crouse said. “The last election 25 out of 26 library levies stateside passed. Ohioans take the local support of their libraries very serious.”

Crouse said the library, which does not have taxing authority, will ask the city of Elyria to place the levy on the ballot. It is expected to raise about $2 million a year and cost the owner of a home valued at $100,000 roughly $35 a year.

In Elyria, the levy will mean no additional money for residents because they are already taxed at 1.9 mills for the library. For voters in LaGrange and LaGrange Township, it will be an increase. They pay 0.8 mills toward the library operation.

However, for residents in Elyria Township, Penfield Township and a portion of Carlisle Township, this will be a new levy. They have not paid anything for library services in the past.

“We know we have some educating to do,” she said. “We need to explain to people that the current levies will expire at the end of 2014 and this levy represents 50 percent of our operating budget. I just can’t envision what would happen if we lost 50 percent of our income.”

A survey conducted by Burges and Burges, a Cleveland-based consultant firm used by many Lorain County entities, indicates support for the levy could be positive if the message to voters is very clear.

The library will have to explain how a state law passed in 2012, aimed at reducing double taxation caused when library districts overlap, is a factor in this year’s election.

The law and subsequent wrangling over who is in and out of the Elyria district, which shared residents with the Grafton Public Library System, placed voters who previously were not taxed by the Elyria library within their service boundaries.

Residents in Elyria Township, Penfield Township and a portion of Carlisle Township fall into this category and library officials are already seeking their support.

“We’ve already been making the rounds,” Crouse said. “We are trying to hit all of them to explain that this is something that will be on the ballot in every political subdivision in our service area. The state has officially assigned them to our library district, and the state has said it must be one tax per district. This is not our choice.”

The Elyria library, a part of the ClevNet consortium, employs 70 people, 60 of whom are members of a collective bargaining group. In addition, it operates five library branches and one bookmobile that circulate more than 1 million items annually.

In recent years, the library has increased its digital offerings and will soon join Hoopla Digital, which will allow even greater access to digital movies, TV series, music and audio books.

“We’re moving toward more digital technology because that seems to be what’s driving the market right now,” Crouse said. “What’s cool about digital is you don’t have to be at the library to access material. You can be at home or work, but you have to have a library card. These are the things that represent the changing face of public libraries. I think there is real strong support in the community, but we need people to come out and show their support. Don’t just assume libraries will always be here.”

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRobersonCT.