Patrons set out to save Middletown Library amid metro budget cuts

Residents grill councilman over library cuts

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - We’re coming down to the wire in budget discussions. There are only around 30 days left to decide what gets the ax to close Louisville’s $32 million deficit.

Two libraries, Middletown and Fern Creek, are facing the chopping block come July 1. But patrons aren’t ready to close the book just yet; they plan to fight to keep it open.

Middletown residents started a petition, already filled with hundreds of signatures. Dozens showed up Saturday morning to make sure Metro Council members knew exactly how much it meant and what they were willing to do to keep the doors open.

“What is valuable to one person is not valuable to another,” Councilman Markus Winkler of District 17 said. “So how do you find that trade off between where you get to spend your money?”

Winkler said he’s well aware of the value these libraries have and he has been fighting for them. But something needs to give.

“Even if we figure out a way to fund this library this year at the expense of something else, what happens next year when we cut another $10 million and the year after that with another $10 million,” Winkler said.

Residents grilled Councilman Markus Winkler about budget cuts.
Residents grilled Councilman Markus Winkler about budget cuts. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

Louisville’s library budget is $20 million.

Mayor Fischer has proposed cutting $2 million through trimming funds, staff, and hours - as well as closing the Fern Creek and Middletown branches.

“If you can come up with all this money for pet projects, how can you not come up with a few hundred thousand dollars to keep open a library?” Winker asked.

For the city of Middletown, that doesn’t sit well.

“We have five schools the kids come here for a safe place and they can walk here,” patron Judy Chang said. “For the senior citizens I personally don’t have Wi-Fi at home.”

The closest library is now 10 minutes away.

Councilman Markus Winker, District 17.
Councilman Markus Winker, District 17. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

Two of the busiest branches are being considered for closure because both buildings are rented, totaling around a million dollars.

But Winkler said Middletown’s lease has already been paid for the year and that might just buy them some time.

“One of the suggestions was do we keep the library open a couple days a week and then see what happens next year,” Winkler said.

Another idea that came out of the more than two-hour long discussion, finding the money elsewhere through donations and membership fees.

“There’s a lot of wealth here,” Winkler said. “There’s a lot of people that could be tapped and people that don’t understand the situation that the library is about to close within 30 days.”

When asked about the petition Monday, Fischer said he hopes Metro Council will look into making a changes to the budget he proposed to heed the concerns of library patrons.

“The problem is, you keep a library open, that means somewhere else closes, it means fewer police officers," Fischer said. "So, all these things have an effect on it, but I hate having to do that and I wish we didn’t. I hope the council listens to what the public is saying right now and says hey we’ve got to figure out a way to stop this from going.”

Wednesday the Louisville public libraries will testify in front of the Metro Council.

The public is encouraged to attend.

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