The is understaffed, underfunded and undersized for the population it serves, according to the Quality Service Audit Checklist, which was created by Michigan librarians and other professionals as a standard to measure libraries.
The checklist, released in 2009, stated that Shelby had met many “essential” requirements based on the three standards of measurements: essential, enhanced and excellent. However, it did not meet the lowest standards of per capita square footage for a library that serves a population of its size.
Shelby is considered a Class 6 library, which means it serves a population of more than 50,000 people. In fact, according to the 2010 census, Shelby serves 73,804 residents.
The Shelby Township Library—which is 12,500 square feet—is 31,500 square feet smaller than the recommended QSAC size to be considered an “excellent” facility.
Based on the QSAC checklist, a Class 6 public library should be .6 square feet per capita. In order to achieve the “excellent” level of certification the library should be 44,000 square feet, and 29,000 square feet to be considered “enhanced.”
For many years, the staff has felt the pinch.
“I think absolutely we need a bigger library. The community suffers when there is not enough space to adequately carry out the programs … because of funding as well as space,” said Shelby Library Circulation Clerk Laura Dora.
Library Director David Conklin told Patch that recently it has become more evident that the library is too small to serve the public’s needs, especially groups that gather at the library.
Conklin said there is a waiting list for toddler reading programs, and this month, the Shelby Poetry Club has moved its meetings to the down the street because rooms could not be secured on a regular basis.
In fact, Conklin said he doesn’t advertise the afternoon book club, which is the longest running book club in Michigan, for fear that it will grow too large and there will not be enough space to accommodate the group.
“The group is so large so the only place they can meet is the center of the library and it’s not ideal,” he said.
The groups that meet regularly at the library are often competing for meeting space with the senior center, which is connected to the library.
In a 2007 report completed by the Shelby Township Library committee, there was talk of building a new 60,000-square foot building. “But that’s when the economy tanked,” said Conklin.
Currently, there are no plans, bonds or mileages proposed to build a new library.
Shelby Township resident Jim Jacoby, who said he visits the library only a few times a year, said he would not vote in favor of raising taxes to fund a larger library.
Resident Dave Kowalski agreed the library could use a facelift and an expansion.
“I don’t know that they need a new library. It’s just that they should expand in the building next door,” said Kowalski. “I hear the court is going to move out so I think they should take over that space. That would be the most cost efficient.”
Conklin stressed that he was not pushing for a new building. He is simply presenting the facts about the library’s status.
“People often look to the library director to change things,” said Conklin. “It’s illegal for the director to politick for change. That’s not my role. The change has to come from the community. It’s not for me to tell them what’s right and wrong.”
The Shelby Township library is the second lowest funded Class 6 library in Michigan with an operating budget of about $1 million a year, according to the QSAC. The lowest funded is the Pontiac Public Library.
The average per capita spending for a Class 6 library is $42.88. Shelby Township spends $16.74 per capita and Pontiac weighs in at $9.32.
“This is the smallest Class 6 library in a lot of ways: smallest space, employees and per capita spending,” said Conklin.
Conklin, who came to Shelby Township a few years ago, said the library is also understaffed for its population size. Most Class 6 libraries have an average of 40 full-time employees. Shelby has 11.
With the nearly 25,000 cardholders the Shelby Library serves, the small staff of librarians and circulation directors jump in to help each other out and keep the lines short.
“We are a skeleton crew but because we work very well together it makes our jobs easier even when it does get hectic,” said Dora.
Currently, the library is down a full-time and part-time librarian and is working with the township to fill the vacancies.