The following is a message from John P. DuLong:
Well it has happened. The Detroit Library Commission voted on 15 June 2004 to impose fees on non-Detroiters starting 1 August 2004. You have to pay this fee if you want to check out any books AND IF YOU WANT TO USE THE BURTON HISTORICAL COLLECTION and the other special collections. The fee is $100 per year.
This is by far the stupidest idea the Detroit Library Commission has come up with. Although many libraries charge a circulation fee for non-residents, to my knowledge, very few, if any, public libraries charge an access fee to use special collections.
What do they hope to accomplish? Will they get $4 million to replace the state funding? I think not. Even if 1000 of us pay up that will only be $100,000. I will be surprised if more than 500 pay this fee.
Will imposing this fee further deteriorate the relationship between the city and the suburbs? Will it lead to a further decline in donations? Will it create a public relations nightmare for the library? Is this punishing the very people who have financially supported the library in the past and advocated for it in Lansing? Will this move damage the millage renewal campaign? Have the administrators and the library commissioners completely failed to understand the huge negative consequences of this decision and the few, if any, positive impacts of this foolish policy? The answer is yes to all these questions.
Most of you will be asking why you should pay $100 a year to use the Burton when you can go to the Library of Michigan or the Allen County Public Library, get better service, and, with the exception of some unique treasures, have access to more genealogical and historical resources. The only people who will feel compelled to pay the fee are those with Detroit ancestry.
The press release fails to answer so many questions: (1) What about a break for non-resident Detroit tax payers who work in the city? (2) What about students who live outside of Detroit but attend school inside the city? (3) What about members of societies that have contributed substantial funds to the Burton over the years, will their members be given discounts? And (4) what about the out of state researcher who shows up to use the Burton just once and finds they have to drop $100? I am sure you can think of more questions.
The Friends of the Detroit Public Library are coming up with an arrangement that, if you join them for $150 a year, you not only become a member of the Friends, but also get to check out books and use the special collections. If you do join up, then remember to tell them that you want to also be a Friend of the Burton Historical Collection, so hopefully your money will go to that collection.
Folks, I think it is time to get active again. Please share your thoughts on this issue here on our list. Many DPL staff and administrators read this list.
Let them know how you feel about this fee.
Also, please write a letter to the editor at the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press. Let them know that this stinks.
Lastly, I think it is time to consider protest actions. What can we do as a community of researchers to publicly protest this decision?
Frankly, I think this decision shows the poverty of leadership by the Detroit Library Commission and the library administration. They should be thinking of ways to pull people into the library to encourage their support, not ways to alienate their patrons. These people have to go!
One last point. Please be kind to the people in the ranks. The librarians and staff did not make this decision. The Friends of the Burton Historical Collection Trustees and the National Automotive Historical Collection Trustees were not consulted for their advice on this policy. I understand that guidelines are not too clear for this decision, and I doubt they will be by 1 August 2004. Please be patient with the staff. Direct your anger to the idiots in the front office and on the library commission.
If you want to join us in our struggle to protect the Burton Historical Collection, then please visit http://habitant.org/bhc.
John P. DuLong