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Iowa library bill moves forward despite criticism

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(The Center Square) – A state subcommittee advanced a bill Monday that would allow Iowa city councils to use library tax money without a public vote despite criticism.

Senate Study Bill 3168 would also allow a city council to oversee and change the practice related to hiring a library director, according to the bill.

While the new bill would not place library property under the control of the city council, it still garnered widespread disapproval.

More than 300 public commenters left messages online opposing the proposed legislation in less than a week.

“I’d like to understand the rationale for the revised bill that could alter the governance for libraries without city residents voting on the change,” said Anna Phelps in her public comment. “Volunteer citizens currently perform the roles noted in the revised bill. These trustees volunteer their time to make sure that their local library runs well, follows complex laws, passes accreditation and meets the needs of the community. I’m not understanding why there is a proposal to shift these duties to city council. This would require city staff to take on additional duties with no additional resources.”

Other commenters called the proposed legislation a politicization of libraries that would strip away local control.

“It is important for voters to be able to have a voice on whether to approve changes like library governance,” wrote Sarah Wicks. “We do not need the legislature making unilateral decisions for our communities. Library boards are intimately and uniquely knowledgeable about what it takes to serve as a library director and how to effectively manage local libraries. Our city leaders are already stretched thin and without all the resources they need, no one benefits from bills like this. Our local library is one of the best assets of our community, please focus on the real issues affecting Iowans, no one is asking for this kind of unilateral decision making and burdensome change and oversight.”

A Local Government subcommittee moved the bill to the full committee.

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