Monday, May 23, 2011

Detroit's libraries not closing; accounting error caught in time

As I wrote yesterday:
I don't have to worry about finding something to write about the rest of the month. Blogging about sustainability in metro Detroit means never running out of material.
For starters, I can update ongoing stories, such as keeping the libraries open.

When I last wrote about the issues facing Detroit's libraries, I quoted the Detroit Free Press article on the subject and made a damned with faint praise comment.
Just one month after laying off 83 employees, Detroit Public Library officials are meeting to discuss closing 12 to 18 of its 23 branches.
...[C]commissioners are also considering closing the libraries for 30 to 60 days to avoid shutting branches entirely.
At least the system as a whole will remain open.
It turns out that closing branches won't be necessary.

Detroit libraries cuts not necessary?

The Detroit News has been all over this story, publishing three articles in two days.

Detroit library heads off closures
In a dramatic about-face, the system's Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cromer now says he's going to recommend to library commissioners today that they don't need to lay off any staffers or close any branches this year.

Why the turnaround? More math problems.

Last week, officials scaled back the closure list after The Detroit News pointed out they misinterpreted tax collection estimates.

Now, Cromer acknowledged the library forgot to factor in savings from the loss of 70 staffers to layoffs and retirements this spring.
Another article opened more elegantly.
Bibliophiles, rejoice. Mathematicians, mourn: The Detroit Public Library won't close any branches after all, but questions linger about how officials almost did because of botched budget numbers.
Oops. At least the result of catching the errors means that there will be no branch closings this year, which is good news. There may be closings next year, but at least there will be time to prepare.

Did the Library Commission follow the adminstrators advice? Yes, they did.
The Detroit Public Library Board of Commissioners decided Friday not to close any branches or lay off any more staff, one month after administrators recommended the closures of up to 18 of 23 branches and layoffs of 191 of 376 workers.
Branch closure plans have dramatically changed since last month, and Friday they were discarded altogether after administrators withdrew their latest plan to close six branches.

No further action is needed. But several commissioners grilled administrators over how, just a month ago, officials thought the budget was so bleak.
The commissioners were not happy about being fed bogus information. I won't say being lied to. The adminstrators weren't trying to deceive the commissioners. They were simply wrong. Never ascribe events to malice when incompetence will suffice.

Speaking of incompetence, I'll let the following headline speak for itself.

Detroit library: No branch closures, but 'we look like clowns'

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