Let's Save the Riverside Library
The Riverside area has had library service since 1968 (nearly 30 years) and the current facility is located at 2410 E. Riverside Drive. Of the 19 library branches, Riverside is one of three remaining rental facilities.
The City Manager's 1998 budget calls for closing the Riverside library to save $192,000. Three criteria are cited to justify the closing: 1) low usage, 2) close proximity to other libraries, and 3) its status as a rental facility.
While the City opened 2 new suburban libraries last year (Milwood and Oak Hill) and will be spending nearly half a million dollars in operating costs to fund them, the City Manager recommends closing the only urban facility that serves the area between the river and Ben White and I-35 and Hwy 183. The City Manager defends his recommendation by saying it's a national trend. So is urban deterioration.
Although claims are made that usage is low at Riverside, the statistics tell a different story. On statistics the city keeps, Riverside falls in the top two thirds with respect to circulation and ranks second in circulation for the eight city libraries located east of I-35. Looking at patron counts, Riverside does even better, falling 12th out of 19 libraries citywide with a patron count through July this year at 75,000. This compares favorably with the Howson branch in west Austin whose count this year is 80,000 patrons.
With respect to claims that the Riverside library is in close proximity to other libraries, one must cross the Colorado River, I-35, or Ben White tor each another library, a minimum of two miles away. For the elderly, the children, or those of limited transportation means, this is not a practical option.
Transferring scarce city resources from the disadvantaged urban core to the developing suburbs runs contrary to the City's goal of creating a "compact" city. The current population of Riverside's service area is 36,000 (59% minority), well above the threshold of 25,000 needed to provide a library facility as stated in the Library's strategic plan. With 40% of the land in the service area undeveloped, there will be tremendous growth in the area in the coming years, especially with the new airport, expansion of high-tech firms and increased residential development. Even the City Manager's plan for regional libraries calls for a library for every 50,000 to 100,000 residents.