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Lack of money to force Robbins library to close

Staff William Leonard Public Library Robbins were given layoff notices Thursday.  |  File photo

Staff at the William Leonard Public Library in Robbins were given layoff notices Thursday. | File photo

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Updated: July 30, 2014 7:01AM



Priscilla Coatney is hoping for a Monday morning miracle.

Coatney handed out layoff notices Thursday to her staff at the William Leonard Public Library. Unless $25,000 suddenly appears in the library accounts, her 10 employees will be out of jobs and the library will be shut down.

The Robbins library is out of money and will be closed until the district can collect property tax dollars in the fall, Coatney said. About 40 percent of the property owners in the library district have stopped paying their tax bills for one reason or another, leading to huge revenue shortfalls.

“We’re in tough times, in a distressed community. And we’re the face of that,” said Coatney, the library director.

No patrons and only a few staff members were in the library, 13820 Central Park Ave, on Saturday afternoon. Summer programs for children likely will be halted because of the staffing cut. The library serves between 6,000 and 10,000 patrons, Coatney said.

Until staff can be hired back, the library might have to rely on those donating their time.

Educators and retirees are contacting the library to volunteer, Coatney said.

She’s also exploring whether her staff legally can work for free at the library after the layoffs.

Grant sources that the library applied for in the past have dried up, she said. Her plan is to contact state politicians to see if emergency funds are available.

Coatney said the library is at its “bare bones.”

“I don’t have anything else to cut,” she said. “I have cut all that I can cut.”

The library needs between $25,000 and $30,000 a month to maintain a staff and keep the place running.

“Once we hit that mark, then I can start to call people back,” she said.

Property tax bills are expected to be sent out in August, Coatney said. By September, taxes will be collected and money will start flowing.

The library has “nothing else that we can do until our tax money can start coming in,” she said.

Donations to help with day-to-day operations, such as cleaning supplies, soap and copier paper, are more sought after than books, Coatney said.

While she expects to avoid a permanent shutdown, the library likely will be open only eight months this year.

Coatney said the library will have no certainty even after taxes are collected in September.

“We’ll eventually open, but how long will we stay open?” she said.



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