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Library Merger Attractive To Normal Council Candidates


Normal Town Council candidates said they find the idea of combining the Bloomington and Normal public libraries an intriguing one.

At a GLT candidates forum held at ISU's University Galleries, candidate Chemberly Cummings embraced a question about merging library services rather than building a new library in Uptown South in Normal and an expansion in downtown Bloomington."It would be better if we could join together as both Bloomington and Normal and have one large epicenter, a place where people could not only get books online and have access to technology, but groups and organizations within the community have a place to meet and gather," said Cummings.

Candidate Ron Ulmer also liked the potential for taxpayer efficiency in combining the two systems. But, Ulmer's take on the need for library service is different. He favored small satellite operations within walking, biking, and bus distance of most of the community.

"Cause it's not a great depository of big volumes any more, since so much is online. So, I think we should float that with Bloomington and see if we couldn't build three or four libraries so that all communities are served," said Ulmer.

Meanwhile, two sitting council members hedged on their enthusiasm for the proposal. Scott Preston said a combined library service could be an opportunity in a perfect scenario if not for other political factors between the two municipalities.

Credit Cristian Jaramillo / WGLT
Incumbent Town of Normal Councilman Scott Preston speaking at the GLT-League of Women Voters forum.

"Making sure that we are moving forward in a way that is making best use of our taxpayer dollars, making smartest and most efficient use of our resources in a way that benefits the entire community is a conversation that is worth having and the library is a good example of that," said Preston.

And council member Kevin McCarthy said collaboration is a challenge right now in Bloomington-Normal.

"We really need to get back to the table because there's a lot to talk about, not just libraries, fire, and the like. I think it's an interesting conversation. Unfortunately it's just not happening now," said McCarthy.

All four candidates for three positions talked about libraries as community development assets.

"Libraries today are not what they were 20, 30, 40 years ago. Libraries are technology filled. They are spaces that bring people together and serve a tremendous purpose in promoting quality of life in our community and communities around the country," said Preston.

The candidates acknowledged relations between Bloomington and Normal governments are strained right now because of the Metro Zone agreement collapse.

Municipal elections are April 4.

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WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.