Palo Residents in Middle of Library Battle

By Dave Franzman, Reporter

PALO, Iowa - Palo residents who want to borrow books and other materials from the Metro Library Network in Cedar Rapids, Marion and Hiawatha will find themselves barred for now. It's a dispute about what's a fair share for Linn County communities outside the metro area to pay for library access.

Until the end of June, residents in Palo who wanted to use the metro libraries could purchase a library card for $25 a year. Communities would then reimburse individuals for the expense. Only about 10 percent of the 1,110 residents of Palo have metro library cards and the expense to the community was only about $2,000 per year.

But this spring, library boards voted to require communities without libraries to fund their share on a per capita basis of all the residents, not just the ones having library cards. That amount is calculated at 80 percent of what taxpayers are charged in Cedar Rapids and the other home communities for the metro library system. For Palo, that would mean slightly more than $28,000 per year although the metro libraries offered to accept just over $21,000 for the first year with higher amounts in following years.

Micah Mogle, Palo Council member, said the city simply can't afford that kind of an increase and balked at signing a deal.

"We see the value on it but we also have to be responsible stewards with our tax money—so it's a tough road. But we'll get there," Mogle said.

Instead, the city of Palo decided to direct residents to a closer library in Shellsburg that would allow a year of library services at the old rate of $25 per person.

However, getting a Shellsburg library card won't help Palo residents when it comes to using services at the libraries in Cedar Rapids, Marion and Hiawatha. Metro library leaders say if a library card shows a Palo address, they'll have to tell the person they can't borrow material or use other services requiring a library card.

Janeal Weeks, Hiawatha Library Director, said that's a conversation library staff don't want to have.

"It's not the kind of conversation we want to have but we want to also stand firm and be fair to the patrons who are paying their fair share," Weeks said.

Palo residents can use the inter-library loan system to order material, but many libraries impose a per item fee to cover costs.

Mogle said the deal with Shellsburg is just a temporary one while the city continues negotiations with the metro library system over a fair share for access.
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