Traverse City Record-Eagle

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March 25, 2012

Forum: Library's position on blind, handicapped

At the most recent Traverse Area District Library board meeting March 15, members of the community and patrons of the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (LBPH) expressed their concern over the possible shift of Blind and Physically Handicapped services to the Michigan Commission for the Blind in Lansing.

We would like to use this opportunity to provide background on current LBPH services as well as to share our plans to hold a public discussion forum to help us work toward the best possible future for those services and the library.

For a number of years, the library has served as a host facility for the 16-county Grand Traverse Area LBPH, which currently serves 783 certified, registered individuals, only 171 of them, or 22 percent, Grand Traverse County residents.

The National Library Service (NLS), a federal database and system of regional and subregional outlets, connects and operates the nationwide LBPH. It provides players, audio and Braille books, and audio magazines. All are delivered by mail, and the NLS underwrites postage costs. The NLS now also provides much of its list from a digital book download site for technically abled users.

There is no interface or overlap of the Traverse Area District Library borrowing system and LBPH services.

To sustain current public library service with reduced millage revenues and to meet the critical demand for expanded services in the southern reaches of Grand Traverse County, the library board asked library administration to look for services that might be redundant and to pare down expenses, wherever possible, in all current areas of library service and management.

As part of this process, LBPH expenses were identified for possible reallocation, but only following assurances that the Michigan Regional Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped in Lansing is able to absorb services to our patrons without compromising access.

Over the past several years, a number of regional LBPH services hosted by public libraries have been successfully transitioned to the Michigan Regional LBPH, and prior to bringing this matter to its board, the library verified continuity of service with the library director hosting the service recently closed in the Upper Peninsula.

Now, as mentioned, our local LBPH borrowers have told us of their strong belief that transferring their service delivery point to Lansing would seriously diminish their ability to take full advantage of this cultural and educational lifeline.

The library board and administration have listened, and we have asked representatives from the Michigan Commission for the Blind to attend a meeting in Traverse City to address the questions posed at the March board meeting as we consider the best way to make sure our residents continue receiving the excellent services they need and deserve, supported with fair and equitable resources.

We invite our LBPH users, their families and interested members of the public to join us for this meeting on Monday, April 30, at 5:30 p.m. It will be in the McGuire Room at Traverse Area District Library, 610 Woodmere in Traverse City.

About the authors: Jerry Beasley is president of the Traverse Area District Library Board; Metta T. Lansdale Jr. is library director.

About the forum: The forum is a periodic column of opinion written by Record-Eagle readers in their areas of interest or expertise. Submissions of 500 words or less may be made by emailing letters@record-eagle.com. Please include biographical information and a photo.

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