Etna Township’s Partnership With Bourbon Library Ends

There will be changes to how Etna Township residents get a library card at the Bourbon Public Library.

Etna Township residents will now have to pay for library cards, which cost $55 for 2020, which is set by the Department of Local Government and Finance based on certain factors.

Library Director Nicholas Treber said the partnership between the township and the library goes back about 28 years.

“The Etna Township trustee previously set aside taxpayer funds in the general fund for up to 100 cards for the residents of Etna Township,” said Treber. Each card allows everyone in the household to have access to the resources of the library. He also said the cards were “free” because they were paid through their taxes.

Treber said the library cards are valid for any member of a household, so if 100 households sign up for cards and the average household contains four people, “then 400 Etna Township residents had access to the resources of the Bourbon Public Library.”

However, Etna Township will no longer be setting aside money for the library cards for township residents.

Etna Township has discontinued the service of free library cards to township residents effective Jan. 1, according to an e-mail from Etna Township Trustee Rita Anglin to Treber.

Treber said the first time the library became aware of the discontinuation was at a Jan. 9 meeting between the Treber, Anglin and Township Clerk Julia Goon.

“A contract was offered to the trustee at this time, who declined to sign. At this point, the township had already set aside funds in their approved 2020 budget for library cards,” Treber said.

“At the public meeting that was held on Jan. 16, the residents of Etna Township strongly expressed their support for the continued use of their tax funds to pay for access to the Bourbon Public Library in a standing-room-only meeting,” Treber said. “Several pleas for compromise were offered by the residents, which the trustee and clerk declined.”

Treber said he was at the meeting to answer questions and “make the case for continuing this valuable service using relevant data.”

At the meeting, the township board agreed to table a decision regarding the matter to allow them time to gather more information, but the library received an email from Anglin on Jan. 18 stating that they were discontinuing the service as of Jan. 1, he said. “Because the trustee had declined to sign a contract, the township board members had no decision-making powers.”

In Anglin’s e-mail, she explained her decision.

“Etna Township has consulted with the Indiana Township Association Inc. It is the responsibility of the trustee to negotiate a contract for a service, then the township board approves the expense. In this case, there is no contract the current trustee has with the library. A township trustee may not sign any contract that goes beyond their term of office. Townships are not obligated to a library unless, of course, it is township owned,” Anglin said in her e-mail.

Anglin said the decision was based on lack of funds in the township and no contract has been signed for the service in several years, “although it was being continued without a contract unfortunately.”

“It’s unfortunate the township can no longer offer this service due to our lack of funds, but we are obligated by law to provide fire protection, township cemetery maintenance, township assistance to those that qualify and to operate Etna Township itself,” Anglin’s e-mail said. “Etna Township also provides first responder service alongside our fire department, which is not required by law, but we feel this is a much-needed service.”

Anglin’s e-mail stated the 2020 budget does have funds appropriated on a line item for the library, but the township will be transferring that money to the cemetery line item for 2020.

The Etna Township budget for 2020 is $148,650. The general fund is $38,900, the rainy day is $3,000, the township assistance fund is $10,000, the fire fund is $46,000, the cumulative fire (township) fund is $50,000 and the recreation fund is $750.

“We, Etna Township trustee and board members, sincerely hope the residents of Etna Township can be thankful and appreciative of this service that they have enjoyed for their pleasure for many years,” Anglin said. “Etna Township knows that no one likes change but this is the time for this change to happen, especially when it was only being used by less than 5% of the population of Etna Township. This service will no longer be offered to the residents of Etna Township.”

Treber explained the effects of the township’s decision.

“The strongest impact will be felt by the struggling families in Etna Township who relied on the resources of the Bourbon Public Library to provide educational materials, internet access, children’s programming and much more,” he said. “The Amish community, homeschool families and many others, including those with preschool-aged children in Etna Township are dedicated library users, and this decision could directly impact their access to a significant source of educational materials, resources  and community connection.”

He also said libraries strengthen communities by making those that walk through its doors feel welcome “and providing them a window to the wider world around them.” He also said the library will lose revenue, but “our focus is on maintaining library access for the residents we’ve come to love in the Etna Township community. We feel that literacy and access to our services is vital.”