Why save CML?

Clark Memorial Library needs your attention!

Why save this community resource when residents can drive, bus, or hike to Cottonwood?

CML interior
Unlike Cottonwood, CML is a cozy space appropriate to a small town.

The short answer is some residents can’t, and one way or another, all pay Clarkdale and Yavapai County taxes.

On a more philosophical level, though, CML is tangible evidence of Clarkdale’s commitment to information literacy and the social values this makes possible: personal freedom, individual initiative, and egalitarianism (what the library crowd calls “access equity”).

And from a practical standpoint, our library is the only all-weather public space Clarkdale has. We only have bars and restaurants that, rightly, take a dim view of people (especially young people) hanging out, sipping their own water. It’s better for all citizens to have young residents gravitating to a library. And no one with whom we’ve spoken would ship their kids to Cottonwood to hang out. A small problem that will grow with population.

Even in a huge city like Los Angeles, a neighborhood library is the hub of day-to-day, non-denominational, non-athletic community. Our own Clark family was one of the major forces behind the magnificent Los Angeles Public Library. Today, thanks to Mayor Richard Riordan, every neighborhood in LA has a branch library within reasonable walking distance of its middle schools—a move he forced on the City Council to cut the cost of policing rough neighborhoods, which it did much more effectively than public parks. On any given day, most of these libraries aren’t bursting at the seams. But they’re there for people who need a quiet haven, a friendly welcome, maybe a sympathetic ear and not-too-personal advice, to keep their heads together, avoid trouble, and improve their quality of life.

Why keep this Town asset when we have so many other priorities and, these days, people can get all they want off the Internet?

Sharron Porter painting
CML exhibits work of local artists, such as this painting for the “A River Runs Thru Us” exhibition.

The short answer is that’s BS. Only a fraction of printed material is available on-line. The Internet is subject to power failures, hackers, and hijackers. The WWW can’t teach surfers how to search it, help sort through options, and offer advice. And some residents can’t afford Internet access, much less smartphones, Kindles, or other IT equipment. Just as it has always been with printed materials.

On a municipal level, though, at the least, Clarkdale would be losing

  1. An historic Clarkdale institution.

    For 90 years, Clark Memorial Library has been operating in the town that Clark built. This is a distinction that sets Clarkdale apart from all other towns in the area, including Jerome, whose library was established earlier, but went the way of the rest of Jerome and has only recently been revived by a librarian who knows the value of old books.

    With a bit of work in conjunction with the Historical Society and the Yavapai-Apache Nation, our still functioning library would be a perfect adjunct to the Clubhouse, Historical Museum, and Copper Museum for tour guides. Why would any retail or hospitality business in Upper Town want to give up this draw for return visits to the Civic Center?

  2. Clarkdale economic development opportunities

    A municipal library is a selling point for residential property sales. The fact Clarkdale has a small, hometown library in its civic center can be a deciding factor in buying property around Historic Old Town.

    A library is a positive consideration for high-end, low-footprint businesses we’d like to have locate here. Not that their employees don’t have smart phones. It’s what maintaining a library says of a town’s priorities and the values of the community. Closing our library sends the message this is a low-end town.

    Our library could help develop and support businesses in Upper Town. Sending book-lovers to Cottonwood does Clarkdale no good at all. They’ll just spend more of their disposable income in Cottonwood, see Cottonwood’s civic notices and promotions, appreciate Cottonwood’s Art in Public Places. And we should be bringing some OLLI extension programs to CML, not shooing our active retirees to YCC’s more-academic-than-thou facility.

    Libraries are sources of grants, endowments, and volunteer fundraising. Closing ours would slam the door on that potential revenue, as well as lose the YCLN funding to which all Clarkdale property owners contribute.

  3. Energized Clarkdale volunteers

    Community libraries are second only to community schools for rallying residents in support of a civic project, bookish or otherwise.

Again in short: Closing Clark Memorial Library would cost the Town of Clarkdale too much to warrant diverting its meager funding to other departments. On a long-term cost/benefit basis, CML is the least expensive Town asset Clarkdale owns.

Why waste the space, operating costs, and staff time on a community resource practically no one uses?

Circulation figures
YC Library District figures show CML had a 44% circulation increase over the last three fiscal years.

The short answer is that’s BS, too. The most reliable figures, the in-library headcount, show some 1,200 annual users. In a town of some 4,000 residents, that’s not “practically no one.” Another computation shows an average of 417 visits per month; of which, 36 to 39 patrons visited CML an average of 3.5 times a week. Without even adjusting for population, that’s more library live-ins than Los Angeles Public Library’s second busiest branch could claim. On top of this, headcounts don’t show how many people used the materials checked out by the patron who could visit the library while it’s open. And on top of that, the value of a library can’t be judged on a cost per use basis any more than a police department can be judged by its cost per crime.

On the other hand, some citizens of Clarkdale do take our library for granted. They mean to read this highly praised new novel or that critically acclaimed study or finish perusing the collected works of Shakespeare. But something always comes up, and a trip to the library is always tomorrow. Also, even avid bibliophiles seldom visit a library more than once a month, and CML’s extended due dates and on-line renewal encourage patrons to load up with books or movies, settle into their favorite chair, and hibernate.

Understandable, but this doesn’t help keep CML on the page. The current staff interprets a few patrons a day as indifference, even with circulation figures rising. And while the Yavapai County Library Network calculates revenue sharing solely on circulation, the perception of “under-utilized facilities” makes bean counters very nervous. They go look at the YCLN demographics, which does not change “home library” with change of address unless specifically requested, and—Aaagh! Only 605 Clarkdale cardholders claim Clark Memorial Library as their home library. As Samuel Clements once attributed to Disraeli, “There are three kinds of lies—lies, damn lies, and statistics.”

And then there are the citizens who want a library to be there for all at need, but figure a public library’s care and feeding is the responsibility of public servants. Well, yes. But we all have to pay those public servants. Clarkdale only has thirty-nine—to keep water flowing from your tap, to dispose of it responsibility after you’ve used it, to guard your property from fire and theft, to maintain your town’s infrastructure, to sweep and fix your streets, to name just a few other tasks you’ve a right to expect your public servants to perform. And without visible, on-going support from the citizenry, the Library Department is the most likely to be disrespected, starved, and ignored. Fortunately, public libraries are the one municipal entity in which citizens’ time—both as patrons and as volunteers—counts for as much as their cash. (Well, schools too, but CJSD isn’t about to die at the moment.)

CML’s current crisis does reflect Clarkdalians’ inattention to how their library is faring.

But where will we find the money? Who’ll pay for this expensive luxury?

The short answer is: The same folks who’ve been paying Clark Memorial Library’s minimal expenses since Clarkdale incorporated in 1957. Contrary to the stricken moans emanating from the Council, Clarkdale residents and business owners do pay their taxes, fees, and special assessments. And in fact, if CML closes, we’ll be paying the same county library assessment. That money will simply go to other libraries in Yavapai County. We’ll be paying the same town property tax, licenses, and permit fees. Library funding will simply shift to other town departments.

Meanwhile, many CML patrons will be spending more cash, time, and/or aggravation, or they’ll do without a vital community resource the Town of Clarkdale has been able to afford, without complaint, for 60 years.

However, let’s look at what those in favor of closing CML call expensive.

  • FY2016-17 total Town budgeted expenditure/expense … $17,432,850

    Of this, the FY2016-17 library budget was         …………………… $77,008 
    (with $54,608 in salaries & benefits)

    Yavapai County Library District revenue         …………………… ($34,611)

    Total General Fund expenditure …………………… $42,394

  • Building expense & maintenance come from another fund and will continue.
    Library donations (currently $6,000–$7,000 held over) will cease completely.
    The two part-time CSD employees currently staffing the library will be reassigned.
    FY2017-18 Yavapai County Library Network revenue is projected to be $36,900.
    With loss of YLD funds, closure could cost the Town thousands more in salaries.
  • Comparing the library to another vital department, the FY2016-17 Police Department budget was $949,320, most of which comes from the General Fund. This isn’t high for the area. Clarkdale’s entry-level police salaries are about 10% lower. But between physical protection and intellectual protection, our library costs a good deal less per resident.
  • The actual library expense for FY2016-17 is projected to be $61,878, which means Clarkdale’s actual cost will be around $27,267 this fiscal year.

So then let’s look at our library’s budget over the years:

  • FY2016-17 expenditure/expense budget…$17,432,850 Library Budget…$77,008
    ($54,608 budgeted library salaries & benefits w/ 3 p/t CSD staff)
  • FY2015-16 expenditure/expense budget…$16,720,460 Library Budget…$72,419
    ($53,095 budgeted library salaries & benefits w/ 3 p/t CSD staff)
  • FY2014-15 expenditure/expense budget…$17,358,761 Library Budget…$73,322
  • FY2013-14 expenditure/expense budget…$20,306,578 Library Budget…$61,203
  • FY2012-13 expenditure/expense budget…$27,181,906 Library Budget…$61,739
  • FY2011-12 expenditure/expense budget…$30,427,969 Library Budget…$57,763
  • FY2010-11 expenditure/expense budget…$29,583,719 Library Budget…$57,886
    ($46,716 budgeted library salaries & benefits w/ 1 p/t library aide & 2 p/t CSD staff)
  • FY2009-10 expenditure/expense budget…$33,699,902 Library Budget…$57,361
    ($46,090 actual library salaries & benefits w/library manager & 2 p/t library aides)
  • FY2008-09 expenditure/expense budget…$27,290,474 Library Budget…$59,366
    ($40,533 actual library salaries & benefits)
  • FY2007-08 expenditure/expense budget…$27,717,051 Library Budget…$59,366
  • FY2006-07 expenditure/expense budget…$27,239,050 Library Budget…$46,700

This is hardly profligate spending. One might nitpick some increases, but most reflect more library hours, more responsibilities, cost of living increases, or general inflation.

Actually, it’s ironic that at the 2016 Council Strategic Planning Session (see 2016-04-29_Council_Agenda_Packet.pdf pages 21–29) the Human Resources/Community Services Department listed as its top Community Services priority: “In order to maintain library operations, move existing Admin. Asst. II in to [full-time] Library [Manager] position (employee is qualified for this reclassification) and allow the vacant part-time Assistant position be filled with a full-time position to support overall department operations (split duties between Library and Community Services duties) (avg. $15,000–$20,000 impact).”

SaveCML advocates a Masters-level or equivalent experience librarian to restore in-library programs and collection, lead an independent Friends volunteer group, and assist Community Development. We believe CML and Clarkdale are worth the investment and fixing our library should take precedence over other discretionary spending.

However, this would require a $92,000 to $95,000 budget (between $55,500 and $60,500 after YLN funding). With some serious and coordinated volunteer help, the HR/CRD plan could work with the current budget. The key is a strong independent Friends group.

And then the bottom line:

Is Clarkdale paying out more than it’s taking in?

No, revenues are rising. Clarkdale doesn’t owe any massive debt. The FY2017-18 Budget will be balanced and higher than last year.

It’s not the money, per se. Apparently, this is a matter of allocation priorities—mainly personnel priorities. If the library were properly staffed and well supported, closure would not have been suggested. It appears the Community Services Commission decided the best way to make boots is to skin your horse.

Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation.”

—Walter Cronkite

CML from 1927 to 2017

Thanks to a tip from CML’s last librarian and the efforts of Clarkdale Historical Society volunteers, we now know that Clark Memorial Library was established in 1927.

A part of the original plan, funded by a $100,000 bequest from William A. Clark (approximately $1.4 million in today’s dollars), it resided in the Clark Memorial Clubhouse, intended to serve all residents of Clarkdale as soon as the Clubhouse opened. Herbert V. Young, author of two books on the history of Jerome and the Verde Valley, was Chairman of the Committee of Employees in charge of setting up the clubhouse and oversaw initial library planning. In a 1979 retrospective (Verde Independent, Nov. 23), he credits Miss Noel Nelpegues, CML’s first librarian, for doing most of the work. And although CML became part of the town when Clarkdale incorporated in 1957, the Clarkdale Women’s Club continued guardianship of literary offerings through the 1980’s.

Edith Lindner in the Historical Society Museum
Living proof CML goes back a ways, Historical Society Volunteer Edith Lindner worked in the original “Reading Room” and went with CML when it moved into the Infirmary building. Here she’s in the room that housed the library from 1982–1992.

Also, CML has always been a lending library, originally staffed by volunteers a couple of days a week, with print materials supplied by the Company and generous individuals.

Historical Society volunteer Edith Lindner fondly recalls arranging books in the Reading Room (between the Lady’s and Men’s Lounge) and helping friends and neighbors find a good-read that matched their tastes. She and other CML volunteers and patrons remember Mrs. King, Catherine King (Ed King’s wife), as CML’s guiding light. From 1942 until the early eighties, Mrs. King managed everything.

Beginning in November of 1979, CML expanded into the old infirmary that then housed Town Hall and the jail (and still houses the Clarkdale Historical Society). The library occupied the entire building. Ione McCalley, library board president at the time, reported the move would allow operations “…at least 10 hours a week. And every day.” It also provided space for children’s programs and Spanish and Indian reading groups. CML quickly needed more volunteers and soon began bursting at the seams again. Especially after, in 1988, CML joined the Yavapai County Library Network, boosting Clarkdalian’s access to most of the library materials in Yavapai County.

Then in 1989, the Town purchased the Methodist church, originally the Clarkdale Community Church, for town offices and a permanent home for our venerable community resource. Town Manager Pat Spence hired Joan Wright to be Library Director, and in 1992, CML opened its present location. After Mrs. Wright left in 1993, volunteer Pat Wiley continued managing the some twenty library volunteers. By this time, CML served the community on a daily basis, 24 hours a week. That’s a lot of coordination. In 1995, Charlotte Hawken, CML’s second staff librarian, took over operations.

For the next 15 years, all was well with this particularly wise decision on the part of town officials. Not only did they preserve a historic building in good repair, they continued Clarkdale’s tradition of promoting literacy through free access to printed materials and encouraging the community values of personal freedom, individual initiative, and egalitarianism that universal access to information makes possible. When the “great recession” increased demand for CML’s print, AV, and computer resources, staff and volunteers increased their availability to 39 hours in a six-day week.

Even in 2010, right when the entire nation was suffering the worst of the recession, Clarkdale’s administrators and volunteers stood tall. Town staff worked together to obtain a matching Arizona State grant, federal Stimulus funds through Yavapai County Free Library District, and financial aid from the Yavapai Apache Nation. Along with matching funds from donations raised over many years by Library Advisory Board volunteers—plus a lot of time and elbow grease donated by both town staff and community volunteers, Clarkdalians managed to renovate the interior and install Wi-Fi access and new computers. A worldwide recession couldn’t kill our library.

Navajo Indians book
Some books in the Southwest Collection are well-read.

However, in December of 2010, Charlotte Hawken retired, and the Library Manager position has remained unfilled to this date.

The Supervisor of the newly formed Community Services Department stepped in to keep CML operational. But her forté was managing public events, and she had no background in books or education, much less library sciences.

Currently, basic programs such as children’s story time have fallen off to none. The in-library collection has stagnated. There has been little or no coordination with other libraries and schools. The popular volunteer Ice Cream Social and Annual Book Sale fundraising events are no more. Devoting part of their workday to CML, the Community Services Supervisor and CS Administrative Assistant, helped out by two volunteers with experience preparing and shelving materials, kept the doors open at least 4 hours a day, 5 days a week, ordered and processed new releases, handled YLN transactions, and kept the paperwork up to date. But they had Community Services work they must attend.

So, here we are.

Both SaveCML advocates and CloseCML advocates agree that a community library without a librarian (paid or volunteer) is a book & AV materials depot with fancy, but inaccurate signage—doomed to become increasingly irrelevant to the community it’s intended to serve.

And as of May 23, 2017, instead of correcting the deficiency that has reduced CML’s value to residents and the town, the Town Council decided not to renew the YLN contract—effectively closing Clark Memorial Library as of June 30, 2017.

Town Founder William A. Clark must be whirling in his grave.

Barely a century ago, he was hardly the only self-made economic powerhouse who saw public libraries as the guardians and motive power of a free, democratic, and prosperous republic. Somewhat wiser than his fellow robber barons, he invested heavily in the people who managed his mining operations, creating a model community that encouraged his workers to improve their lot in life as well as his. We’re not sure if he’s seeing the folly of giving free men too much or decrying the curtailed vision of current leaders. We only hear a great wind roaring, “Face the bull, you fools. Take back what’s yours.”

Whatever that means, Clark Memorial Library is out of the town budget, but still on the page. The language in the motion that closes its doors contains, “…and that the Town won’t make any substantive changes to the building that would obviate its operation as a library this next year [FY2018-19].” A Friends of Clark Memorial Library support group, headed by Clarkdale Postmaster Jimmy Salmon, has formed to hold the town to this. How much of what the town needs to reopen it remains to be seen.

Stay tuned. This saga ain’t over ‘til the wine drinks itself, the skull speaks, and the clock strikes the right time.