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TUESDAY, AUGUST 22, 2006
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EDITORIAL

Caution: Letters not way to lobby city councilmen

City librarian Sandra Sherman-McCandless had good reason to marshal her letter writers in a campaign that's alienated City Hall.

You might say she's been ignored.

Over a year ago, Ms. Sherman-McCandless advised City Council members that Wheeler Basin Library might break up after nearly 50 years and the Decatur library needs a board.

But she got no response. It took almost a year to get two council members to nominate two members to the five-member board.

Three members just haven't gotten around to looking into the matter. But now they are miffed that the librarian, who isn't the stereotypical librarian, might attempt to get a bit pushy.

Councilman David Bolding, indulging in hyperbole, says council members received 50 million letters from people not wanting the library budget cut.

Council President Billy Jackson says 5 percent raises for a staff, whose lowest full-time employee makes $7.71 per hour, is out of line.

Council members seem to be too busy questioning budget figures to look at what's happened to the library. Once the mother hen to Athens, Lawrence County, Hartselle, Priceville, Falkville and Eva libraries, Wheeler Basin drew money from these communities to perform certain services and so they could have better libraries.

That's no longer the case for all but the smallest, and that puts the Decatur library in transition. It's still run by the Wheeler Basin board, which Ms. Sherman-McCandless is trying to reshape as a city board. Council members haven't been cooperative.

When budget figures change, council members question her management without taking into account the transition.

What may be the most absurd piece of this controversy is that elected leaders take offense at hearing from their constituents. Why shouldn't people who want a better library contact a council member? That's supposed to be how a representative form of government operates.

Council members ask questions in public that cast doubt on library management. None of them apparently takes the time to probe deeper than to find fault.

Ms. Sherman-McCandless might not be as tactful as council members wish, but that doesn't mean the library should go lagging. Wheeler traditionally is a source of local pride. Let's put the egos on the shelf and keep the library that way.

P.S. Council members, please don't consider this opinion to be one of those offensive letters.

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