Grand Rapids voters to decide on library millage

Inside the Grand Rapids Public Library.


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — If you’re of a certain age, chances are the neighborhood library branch is not the library you remember visiting as a kid.

Today’s public library is more than books and periodicals. Many offer e-books and streaming services.

“Our library is adjusting to the differences and the changes and the needs of the people,” David Doyle said.

The longtime political consultant is running the millage campaign for the group LOVE4GRPL.

On Nov. 7, Grand Rapids voters will decided if they want to continue paying additional funds for their libraries. A millage for brick-and-mortar library projects has been around for 20 years but expires this year. Now, leaders want a new millage. The amount’s the same, but how it would be spent would change.

If approved, the millage would cost the owner of $100,000 home with a taxable value of $50,000 about $18.50 each year. The $1.7 million generated annually would be used for general fund operations at the city’s eight library branches. New projects would include added preschool and kindergarten reading readiness programs, improved digital streaming and e-books services, along with maintaining library facilities.

“We’re working very hard to see to it that the money that we will raise from this revenue source will go into doing the things that not only are needed now, but are needed in the future,” Doyle said.

But the proposal is facing opposition from the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce.

“The chamber feels that a strong library system is critical to our region,” said Andy Johnston, the chamber’s vice president of government affairs.

Among the reasons for the chamber’s opposition, Johnston said, is that it feels 20 years is too long for a general operating millage, especially considering the rate of technological changes.

While stopping short of calling for total consolidation, the chamber wants to see more collaboration between the Grand Rapids Public and the Kent District Library systems.

“We think that there’s a potential to do more,” Johnston said. “And before we go for a 20-year tax, we need to have the most efficient system in place. That’s when it’s responsible to go to the voters and ask for additional resources.”