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Library seeking input; poll of residents part of five-year plan

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The county library system wants to hear from more than just the people who come to meetings about their plans for projects and programs.

Johnson County Public Library board members want to get more residents involved in long-term planning, despite low turnout at most of their public meetings.

The library plans to interview 100 people from across the county while coming up with a five-year plan that will pinpoint what projects are next after the failed referendum on a new Franklin branch.

Board members said that they want more people to weigh in on the new plan and that they might have reconsidered the $30 million Franklin branch project if as many people spoke at early planning meetings as did after the referendum got voted down.

If you go

The Johnson County Public Library board will have a special meeting to get public comments about what library services, programs and facilities they’d like to see over the next five years.

When: 7 p.m. Monday

Where: Clark Pleasant branch,

530 Tracy Road, Suite 250, New Whiteland

If you can’t attend: Residents also can drop off comment cards at any of the four branches or email comments to nextchapter@jcplin.org.

About 20 people attended a special meeting Tuesday, and most of them were library employees.

Six people spoke, and half of them mostly expressed concerns about the high prairie grass outside the Trafalgar branch.

Library board members said they weren’t satisfied with the turnout Tuesday or at other recent meetings aimed at getting public feedback on what programs the library should offer and whether it should make improvements at any of its four branches.

One resident said that the low turnout showed that people were satisfied with current library services and didn’t want any new buildings. Another said the board should not rely too much on the opinions of enthusiastic library users who might come to meetings or send in comments.

Director Beverly Martin said the library has a plan to interview 100 people, including educators, business leaders and people who don’t currently use library services. The goal is to determine what services residents need in the future and then come up with a plan for programs and building projects over the next five years.

The library district still will try to increase turnout at the meetings but needed ideas about how to draw more people, Martin said.

Resident Dick Huber said the board should find out what the public thinks after the downtown Franklin project was rejected by voters last spring.

“You the staff and the board members feel like you’re really in touch with the public because you’ve met 1 percent of the people,” he said. “But there’s 99 percent of them that really don’t feel that way. But you get the feeling that’s what everybody wants.”

Members of the public lost faith in the library board after they presented surveys that said a majority of residents supported a new downtown Franklin library, when voters later rejected it at the polls by a 3-to-1 margin, Huber said. Residents didn’t know where the board was getting its information, he said.

“There’s a disconnect between the public and the board,” he said.

His advice to the board was to present the public with options before soliciting public input. Residents don’t necessarily know what they want unless they can see all the possibilities and what they would cost, Huber said.

The library will present options for the future as part of the planning process, Martin said. Library officials will craft specific proposals after interviewing members of the community about services and programs.

Resident Tom Morrison said the library should consider that low turnout at the meeting means that residents are happy with the service they’re getting.

“It should tell you something that no one’s here saying that they want a new library,” he said.

Three residents who spoke at the meeting asked the board to have someone mow the tall prairie grass around the Trafalgar branch, which they said was unsightly. They said that the prairie grass around the library branch is so tall that they have a hard time seeing oncoming traffic when pulling out of parking lot and onto State Road 252.

“The building’s too pretty to be surrounded by this. It’s a wonderful library, but it looks deserted. It looks weedy,” resident Jan Hazelwood said.

Library board members said they’d consider alternatives such as mowing. Board member Jim Admire said the library still had borrowed money left from the failed Franklin branch project that potentially could be put toward new landscaping.

Board members also said that prairie flowers planted outside the branch haven’t fully blossomed yet and the prairie grass was planted partly to cut down on operating costs, because it’s all indigenous plant species that don’t need to be watered or mowed. Residents have suggested forming a “Friends of the Prairie” group that would take care of it, Martin said.

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