Saturday, September 23, 2017




At the end of June of this year,  "the" did a story on the demolition of the Jackson Branch of the Stark County District Library.

It was literally "a picture tells a thousand words" insofar as many Jackson Township public library users were concerned.

To them it seems that they viewed the demolition as being devastating (i.e. a lot of fond memories of they and their children using the facility), but at the time they were buying into the notion that in the long run Jackson would be better off with the building being demolished on the promise that it would be replaced in due course with a projected "temporary" move to a nearby storefront location.

Back in May, 2016 the Stark County District Library made the determination that the 25 year old Jackson Branch of the Stark County District Library (SCDL; JB-SCDL) was in such a state of disrepair that it would cost about as much to do the repairs as to build a new library (estimated to be $4.7 million).

It appears that Scott Oelslager  (Republican, 29th Ohio Senate District) and/or Kirk Schuring (Republican, 48th Ohio House District) had successfully convinced fellow legislators to include $1 million in state money to rebuild the JB-SCDL.

But along the way to transitioning from a "in need of demolition" building to a "brand new" building, cutting edge thinking in form of relatively new director hire Tena Wilson,  a concept of libraries evolving across America as being technologically utilitarian and savvy as being "Smart Stores" was bought into by Wilson.

The SCPR has yet to talk with Wilson on her particular history of her embracing the "Smart Store" concept, it seems that need to either repair the existing JB-SCDL or to tear it down and go to an alternative was a "gift sent from Heaven" in terms of finding a way to deliver library services at a higher library services utilization rate on a much more economical basis and thereby save taxpayers money.

What she did not count on, it appears, was the storm of protest that she was about to dust up when it became increasingly deducible by traditionalist Jackson Township based public library users that the transition from the in disrepair building to an alternative was that the alternative being a "storefront" temporary location becoming permanent.

Take time out and go to the SAVE OUR LIBRARY Facebook page put together by those Jackson residents who are insisting that the SCDL rebuild a permanent home for the JB-SCDL at the original North Park in Jackson Township location.

As readers can see, the rhetoric from some of the page users is quite heated.

Jackson Township officials (the trustees and the fiscal officer) are fully supportive of the effort for Jackson to get back to a permanent location for a library.

Originally, township officials (25 years ago) cobbled together some $500,000 and a plot of land in North Park to build the now demolished facility.

However, Jackson Township officialdom via Fiscal Officer Randy Gonzalez (a former chairman of the Stark County Democratic Party) is urging opponents of the storefront location becoming permanent, more or less, to tone down the rhetoric, to wit:

Not nearly as helpful in defusing this emotionally charged environment is a comment by Trustee Jamie Walters, to wit:

Focus on Walters' "hopefully the easy way," followed by "but either way regardless, Jackson makes things happen.

Kind of strange for a person who bills himself as "RevJamieWalters" to be implying that power politics could be the future of the Jackson Township/SCDL differences on whether or not a new building will be built.

The SCDL Board of Trustees will be holding a "regular" meeting this coming Wednesday, September 27th at the main branch which is located at 715 Market Ave, North, Canton, Ohio.  The starting time is 5:00 p.m.  There is every indication that opponents to the Wilson recommendation will be at the meeting in force as they have been at a number of Q&A/informational meetings that have been held recently.

Executive Director Tena Wilson may well be correct in terms of efficiency/effectiveness (i.e. higher library use of the Smart Store approach) factors, but those types of consideration seem rather analytical and sterile in the light of the emotional factors at play and in light of a clear shift of direction from the original promise that there would be a "new" building to replace the "old" one when cost effectiveness of repairing the "old" became apparent in the context of expert (architectural/engineering) assessment.

An example of the communication problems inherent in using an analytical approach as compared to a largely emotional reaction is obvious in the suggestion by one "rebuild the library" advocate is caught up in the number $670,000.

Director Wilson tells the SCPR that the cited $670,000 was ONLY for the repair of the water/foundational problem at the "old" building.

In the SCPR's e-mail communication with Director Wilson it was The Report that suggested to Wilson that there was a mistake in comprehending what the $670,000 number was all about.

The SCPR has no dog in this fight on the substantive issue.

However, The Report loves to see the likes of SAVE OUR LIBRARY group work at becoming informed and active in civic issues that surface across Stark County's political subdivisions.

The current SCDL operating levy will have to be renewed or replaced by the November 2018 general election.

Jackson's opponents to the storefront location of the JB-SCDL point out that 30% of any levy that is passed comes from Stark County's second largest township.

It would be tragic for the health of the Stark County District Library to fall victim to a communication problems between SCDL officials and the SAVE OUR LIBRARY FOLKS.

Last evening, the SCPR received this response from Director Wilson to an inquiry which included allegations of personal nature.  She chose not to respond to the personal attacks on her make by some of the members of the SAVE OUR LIBRARY group.

Here is the core of her response:

·        In 2016, the library board made the decision to replace the original Jackson library facility with new construction.  The decision was made after an extensive study showing the extent of the damage and that the costs to repair and remodel the old building would be nearly as much as that to build an entirely new branch.   

·        As you mention, it was estimated that it would cost $670,000 for just the repairs to remediate the water damage. The larger figure included that repair cost plus the interior remodeling project we were already planning in order to refresh and update the branch before we discovered the damage.

·        To ensure continued service to the local community while the old library was demolished and a new one built, we established an interim branch in the Buehler’s Plaza.  The smaller facility was created only as a temporary solution until the new branch could be built; it was necessarily limited to the space available at the time and it was never intended to be a permanent option. 

·        Taking advantage of the need to outfit the interim space regardless, we decided to use it as an opportunity to test a number of new technologies, services, and materials that we would eventually like to offer system-wide. Many of these – like our 24/7 lobby, video games, and pick-up lockers – have received very positive reviews.

There are a number of persons who have handled themselves quite well in the ongoing dialogue between SCDL officialdom and the SAVE OUR LIBRARY group.

Fiscal Officer  (Jackson Township) Randy Gonzalez deserves plaudits for his work to defuse the potential volatility of the dialogue.

In scheduling and holding well attended community meetings, SCDL officials are demonstrating that they are more than willing to hear Jackson citizens out on their clear desire that notwithstanding the efficiency/effectiveness numbers residents REALLY DO WANT A "NEW" BUILDING on the original township government provided site.

Director Wilson supported by the board of trustees can use the Smart Store approach to the future of library services across the nation into a "new" Jackson Township library branch building.

And the SAVE OUR LIBRARY members need to assure SCDL officials if the board of trustees agrees to rebuild in Jackson, that come a levy effort in 2018; they will step forward to support the levy effort.

In particular, should any others across the complex of the SCDL system attack countywide renewal/replacement effort because the officials opted to spend more money than a pure efficiency/effectiveness analysis indicates as being prudent in rebuilding in Jackson; the SAVE OUR LIBRARY folks should come to the board's defense in making the point that "by the numbers" analyses do not account for traditional and emotional factors inherent in the decision.

To repeat, it seems to the SCPR that library officials and SAVE OUR LIBRARY folks can "have their cake and eat it too!"

Working together they can make a new building a center for Jackson civic and community life that will build numbers using a new physical facility supplemented by "in place at the current storefront location" devices which make the library functional 24/7.

Jackson official Randy Gonzalez in a terrific model for the SAVE OUR LIBRARY advocates and hopefully his influence will be in full play when the September 27th board of trustees meeting takes place.

The SCPR plans on being there as this civic engagement encounter continues.

This back and forth is clear evidence that citizens being involved (especially in local government) can be effective.

Minus the personal attacks, the SAVE OUR LIBRARY participants are an example of a prized community asset.

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