Robbins in danger of losing only library

August 12, 2009 Tough economic times may force the library in Robbins to close at the end of the month. It has become a safe place where many children go after school and in the summer while their parents are working.

Educators, parents and other community members in Robbins say they hope this valuable resource can be saved.

The library has been experiencing financial strain the past few years, but it has managed to stay open because administrators have been awarded grants, or taken out loans. Now, though, there is barely enough money to make this month's payroll. Librarians say they are running out of options for funding but are hoping the generosity of the public will keep them from closing.

"I read and write. I get on the computer," said Shawna Lewis.

Wednesday, 8-year-old Shawna Lewis was focusing on improving her math skills. She was joined by a large group of kids who are busy working on various projects at the William Leonard Public Library in Robbins. It is a popular place in the community, but the library's future looks bleak, because it's running out of money and might close at the end of this month.

"It just hurts me if our children don't have a place to come and do their homework, because that's important to them," said Jo Ann Rose, library board member.

Library workers made a tearful appeal to the public for donations to keep the doors open. The library relies on property taxes to fund its annual budget of $300,000.

But workers say Cook County has been late the past few years in sending out tax bills and is collecting only 60 percent of assessed taxes in Robbins. Library managers have tried to adjust to the dwindling funds but have reached their limit.

"It's okay if you can plan for it when you know you're gonna get it, but if they say, 'Well, we don't want to send tax bills out right now, we want to wait another month or two months,' that just decimates a community like this," said State Rep. Will Davis, (D) 30th District.

Robbins is a community with a 98 percent poverty rate and many people rely on the library for internet access.

"We already have enough abandoned houses in the community. For this building to be empty and go to waste wouldn't even make sense," said Richea Presswood, resident.

In the meantime, Robbins' residents are taking advantage of all of the library's resources.

"I come here all week, all day. I come here a lot," said Shawna Lewis.

The library is open six days a week, Monday through Saturday. In the past, it cut down to three days a week to save money. Administrators say doing that this time still won't bail them out. They hope to eventually change the funding structure, shifting the library's dependence on property taxes to another source of revenue.

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