Mayor, council choke off public use of excellent library

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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.]

24 COMMENTS

  1. There was a part-time library assistant job posted over the past few months and another new posting went up on 9/22. Perhaps you could go work there and help staff them!

    You should also do some investigation (that took me all of four minutes) to look up hours at libraries around us. Would you like to go to Greenville and enjoy their afternoon-only hours? What about Milner, where you can’t go on a Saturday? 8:00pm means that our library is open latest than pretty much any other one in our area, but I suppose that accolade doesn’t fit your narrative.

  2. Public services and facilities cost money. Land purchase, construction, maintenance, staffing, insurance, security, supplies and dozens of specialized costs too numerous to identify. On the other hand, everyone complains about taxes. It’s one or the other. Don’t whine about infrastructure maladies, reduction of government service hours , traffic or hospital overloads unless you are willing to pay your share for remediation.

  3. Thank you, Steve Brown! Well said. These PTC Library hours are odd: Monday: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM, Tuesday: 12:00 PM – 8:00 PM, Wednesday: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM, Thursday: 12:00 PM – 8:00 PM, Friday: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM, Saturday: 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM, Sunday: closed.

    Compare them to the more consistent hours at the Fayette County Public Library: Monday: 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM, Tuesday: 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM, Wednesday: 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM, Thursday: 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM, Friday: 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM, Saturday: 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM, Sunday: closed.

    For the record, here is what has been happening in our town. Sincerely, Mary

    • I don’t think those hours are odd. I think the city is trying to make the library available to as many people as possible given the difficulty they’re having in finding employees.
      Just looking at the schedule, it appears that they would like to have the library open at least a couple of evenings so patrons can come in after work. But they also probably have patrons who would prefer to use the library in the morning. Without enough employees to cover both mornings and evenings, this is the solution.
      I think it is quite reasonable.
      Many industries are having trouble fining employees, so this is not just an issue in Peachtree City.
      If you, Mary, or Steve Brown, are so invested in having longer hours at the PTC library, then you should apply for a job there. I hear they’re hiring.
      Or, better yet – you could volunteer.

  4. The library where I used to live had a combination of volunteers and paid staff. The hours of operation spanned Monday through Saturday. My wife often takes the kids to the library not because we don’t have a lot of books, but they like to see new books in a different venue than home. It excites them to go to the library to see what books are on the shelf. When we install something as large as a library, we need to have a long-term plan so that it is always an operation according to the needs of the community. Even the library needs some decent marketing and public relations so the citizens are aware of its benefits. Paradigm shifts are good even when we have internet in this day and age and can access content online. It’s good to remind people of the value of in-person purview of new and used books that are constantly updated in a quiet peaceful venue. I love this article keep it up.

  5. A cursory review of the hours of operation in public libraries around the US reveals that these hours have been shrinking for some time. While I appreciate you calling attention to our local library, it is misleading to suggest this phenomenon is unique to Peachtree City. It all comes down to the budget. Our public library is one of many local amenities that depend on tax dollars. I value literacy and I love reading. My children have enjoyed the youth programs offered at our local library. My husband has used the study rooms. We have benefited from having this public amenity. The current hours of operation present some limitations. Am I willing to pay higher taxes to expand these hours? No.

  6. A library is a public service and should have high priority in a community. And since PTC is one of the highest circulated libraries in the state you would think we would have convenient hours to accommodate the area’s needs. I was appalled that after the covid crisis library hours were still cut. With an impending tax increase I think the people of PTC should storm a city council meeting demanding full service hours. If the staff is working inside why can’t the doors be open? This makes no sense to me. Their hours should be convenient for the public and not vice versa. Even in this day and age, libraries are very important. Find the money and open the doors. We want a full service library!

  7. I agree the library needs to expand its hours. My age seven grandson experienced the library for the first time this year. He loved it and we were there a couple of hours. A library can facilitate great things. It’s as if another institution is suffering obsolescence.