Library merger talks should continue, include public discussions

Tuesday’s decision by Ward County to end discussion about a merger of the county library and the Minot library was a premature move.

Citing questionable benefits to rural residents and to the county, the commission voted to discontinue the discussion that has been underway since last summer.

Both city and county voters would have to approve any change.

Advocates cite cost savings: Janet Anderson, Minot Public Library director, and Kerrianne Boetcher, Ward County library administrator, presented study information at Tuesday’s county commission meeting that showed an operational cost savings of about $610,000 over 10 years – while increasing bookmobile services and expanding the Minot and Kenmare libraries.

In an era in which cost savings is top on most residents’ agenda, it seems inappropriate to simply drop negotiations. This is particularly true because merger opponents offer little but conjecture – fear that rural residents will end up underserved and even an odd question of whether or not the Kenmare library actually needs expansion.

So, what exactly is the risk?

Based on details of the previous discussion, the only loss would be of the small county library, while the city library would see a boon just blocks away.

Who has brought forth the complaints? Just callers to the county with fears not based on any aspect of the actual plan?

This discussion should continue with a caveat. The public should be invited into the discussion, with one or more meetings to hear information and to share their concerns. It is the most democratic way to address the issue, resident concerns and the reality of the work that has gone into studying the issue.

That’s the right thing to do.