It was raining outside Tuesday morning, and I had some reading to do, so I decided to take it to the library and work away.
I arrived at the library at approximately 10:15 a.m. and the doors were locked shut. To my amazement, the scheduled hours for the library on Tuesdays call for the building to open at noon (that’s not a typo — noon). Staff members were in the building.
I went back to my car and checked a few emails. I sat in my vehicle for an hour just observing. I watched dozens of people go up to the doors and try to enter the library, many shaking their heads in disgust, throwing up their arms, and walking away.
One after another, seniors, young adults, and parents with small children tried to open the locked doors. The covid precautions for operation are long gone, so why the draconian hours?
You know, if I wanted to close down a multimillion-dollar city amenity, reducing the hours to the point of making patronizing the place makes sense.
Go look at the hours for the library, it’s ridiculous (see: https://peachtree-city.org/Faq.aspx?QID=156).
Is the city council even capable of caring?
Is it not worth taking a look at the dysfunction of the elected body and asking a few questions? Whether it’s negligence or incompetence matters little if the issue never gets resolved.
The city council has been constricting library hours for years, the latest being in 2017 and then adjustments for Covid.
Library Administrator Jill Prouty recently approached the city council saying they could extend two days a week to 8:00 p.m. because the programs were so popular. Mayor Kim Learnard asked how that was even possible without increased funding.
Shake our collective heads, the mayor shows no signs of innovation and motivation to improve a prime city amenity. She appears to have no understanding of library operations or how staffing adjustments can be made, but thank goodness the staff is capable and trying.
Council Member Phil Prebor made the comment to Prouty that he would rather see local teenagers at the library rather than hanging out and causing mischief at Battery Way Park. In prior years before Prebor, Council Member Mike King and colleagues began constricting the hours, our teens were using the library.
It might be conceivable that Prebor’s comment would spark some serious inquiry from the city council in the public meeting as to what went wrong and how could the city council make the multimillion-dollar public facility more accessible. Nah, next agenda item!
Remember, with the Fleisch and Learnard administrations, it’s all about having serious discussions on issues behind the scenes, quick public meetings, and very limited public input.
Devoted library patrons are probably wondering if the study area in the library could be converted to pickleball courts, perhaps the mayor would actually address the library access issues (see: https://thecitizen.com/2022/09/19/mayor-pickle-ball-says-battery-way-park-bathrooms-can-wait-while-local-taxes-skyrocket/). At least the library has a functioning restroom, unlike Battery Way Park.
What do a library, media center, and meeting place mean to a city?
The library is the intellectual and cultural center of our municipality. The mayor and council have a beneficial multimillion-dollar facility running a mere fraction of the week.
Traditionally, our library has been an exceptional place for parents to bring toddlers to teach the joy of reading and learning in a fun atmosphere at our children’s library section.
Parents roam through the shelves with their children, pick out a book of interest and sit at a table or on the floor and begin reading, matching words with pictures and learning how to put sounds with letters. On Tuesday, I watched them walking away from the locked doors.
Our passionate adult readers are looking for the next great book in the genre they prefer. They would like to do this during hours that function with their work and family schedules. I also watched them walk away disgusted.
We have a lot of homeschoolers using the library, helping those families with learning resources as well as having a quiet place to do their work and study. They could not get in the building either.
Traditionally, the library has been an exceptional place for middle school, high school, and local college students to meet with their peers for study groups and test preparation. However, the current hours for the building close at 5:00 p.m. most days, 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Saturdays, and it is not open on Sunday at all.
For students involved in extra-curricular activities at school, the library is nearly inaccessible.
The library is a safe controlled space where parents can be at ease knowing where their students are studying. There are security cameras throughout the library and paid staff on duty.
The library is a venue for local citizen participation and activity, but the hours kept getting reduced over time to the point where most citizens are not able to utilize the facility. Valuable space is being wasted.
Why does the city council not care?
The city council has not asked the citizens to participate in a public discussion at a council meeting regarding this schedule, choking off many of the opportunities that the multimillion-dollar library facility provides to a very diverse group of citizens.
It has been established that the city council does not care what the library patrons and potential patrons have to say (example, see: https://thecitizen.com/2022/07/04/local-elected-officials-routinely-ignore-and-violate-part-of-1st-amendment/).
Ignoring constituents is appalling and some local elected officials even mock their constituents (see: https://thecitizen.com/2021/08/24/board-of-education-member-presberg-puts-on-facebook-show-ridiculing-dozens-of-parents-and-public-speakers/). These people should not be re-elected.
The library’s hours of operation in 2017 were changed to 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday. And that was considered reduced hours.
Ignoring the commitment from the taxpayer citizen voters
Back in my mayoral days, we had an issue specific $4.9 million bond referendum on expanding the library, creating a first-class children’s section with activity space and an excellent study-meeting area.
Even in an immediate post-9/11 horrible economy, the voters said “yes” and invest their tax dollars in the project. That is what the library means to the community.
Opening later is a problem for homeschooled students and parents of toddlers trying to get an early start on their day because they have other things to do for and with their families.
Decapitating the evening hours cheats our middle school, high school, and local college students with opportunities to enhance their studying with their peers in a safe location. Closing that valuable facility at 5:00 p.m. is absurd (8:00 p.m. two nights a week).
Keep in mind that the staff begins closing the facility in the evening 30 minutes before the close time. The students have no choice but to go somewhere else.
Residents who use the library as their primary source of internet access cannot even get to the facility after they get off work most days because the doors are locked.
Our current administration is not considered constituent driven. Their track record is abysmal. For comparison, the Kedron Fieldhouse is open from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on weekends, but the intellectual and cultural center of the city is constricted into irrelevance.
Let’s not use the funding lie
Please, don’t say it’s a financial issue as Mayor Learnard’s pet pickleball court construction project has been defiantly moved up to the top funding tier (most likely a $950,000 project) with no public input, of course. Literacy seems to have lost its luster on the city council.
The pickleball mayor can starve the library out of existence, not lifting a finger or even seeing there is a problem, but she will get her full service, fully maintained, low-priority pickleball facility because she plays pickleball.
Time for citizen taxpayers to act
Post what you would do to improve the library situation in the comments below. The mayor and council members clearly do not care enough to ask, so thecitizen.com will ask.
Let the mayor and council members know how you feel at Council@peachtree-city.org about the tax increase amid damaging inflation, allowing more apartments to be built in our comprehensive plan, the mayor’s personal funding projects, the ethical lapses, and their lack of receptiveness to the citizen taxpayers.
We used to utilize the term “public servant” to describe those elected or appointed to government positions, but not so much anymore. To be a servant, you must be devoted to someone or some people other than yourself.
To all prospective political candidates for council Post 3, please do not seek elected office if you think public meetings are just a mere formality and should be handled in the most expedient way possible. Similarly, rolling your eyes and constantly looking at the large timer restricting public speech when someone is speaking is disrespectful and shows you do not give a darn what a citizen is saying in the extremely limited amount of time the poor citizen is allowed.
We need a public servant in post 3. Go vote.
[Brown is a former mayor of Peachtree City and served two terms on the Fayette County Board of Commissioners.]