Two Recent Surveys Show Library at Pershing Site Not Needed
76% Are Already Satisfied With Current Library Services
(LINCOLN, NE) – Survey results recently released by Mayor Beutler and survey results presented to the Lancaster County Board a few months ago show that Lincoln and Lancaster County residents are satisfied with the library services currently offered in Lincoln. Both surveys appear to show little support for a plan being pushed by the Lincoln City Library Board of Trustees and the Lincoln City Library Foundation to build a new library on the site where Pershing Center now sits. The poll results were highlighted today by the Lincoln Independent Business Association (LIBA).
“LIBA urges the Library Board to consider the wishes and views of the community before moving forward with a costly new public venture that Lincoln citizens see as unnecessary,” Coby Mach, President of LIBA, said today. “A new library on the Pershing site may sound like a great idea, but it comes at great cost to the taxpayers. The Pershing Center presents a unique opportunity for downtown economic development, and also provides Lincoln the ability to generate tax revenue by placing it in the hands of private developers who will increase its taxable value.”
Mach said that LIBA and its members are interested in future proposals for renovating the Bennett Martin Library, but that they believe the current proposal to construct a $50 million library on the Pershing Center site is a step in the wrong direction. Moreover, as LIBA pointed out, the public opinion results support Mayor Beutler’s initial observation in 2012 when the library project was first discussed and the Mayor said he didn’t “sense community support for [this] kind of public expenditure.”
The public opinion research numbers to which Mr. Mach referred are results from the Taking Charge 2015 satisfaction survey presented by Mayor Beutler, and a 2014 survey presented to the Lancaster County Board on Tuesday, July 28, 2015, by Professors Jerry Deichert and Bob Blair of the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Center for Public Affairs Research as part of the County Board’s strategic planning retreat.
The numbers presented to the County Board were gleaned from the 2014 Nebraska Metro Poll. That poll showed that almost 76% of Lancaster County residents are “somewhat or very satisfied” with the library services currently offered in their community. Although the larger study included all metropolitan counties in Nebraska, the results presented to the County Board included only those from residents of Lancaster County. Professor Deichert explained that the Lancaster County survey numbers are probably made up of close to 90% Lincoln residents. When asked, Professor Deichert stated that he would not expect the results of a survey consisting of only Lincoln residents to vary much from the Lancaster County wide results.
The Taking Charge 2015 survey presented by Mayor Beutler indicated that a large percentage of respondents used library services, and that those who used the services rated them highly in terms of their overall service, hours of operation, comfort and cleanliness, and availability of resources. Those who did not use library services regularly focused on the fact that they obtain resource materials online or from other sources as the main reason for not using the public libraries.
The current downtown library – Bennett Martin Library – is a four-story library located at the corner of 14th and “N” Street. In late 2012 when the Board initially discussed a proposal to transform the Pershing Center into a downtown library the touted cost was $33 million. During 2013 discussions between Library Board representatives and members of the Lincoln Independent Business Association, the proposed budget was $40 to $42 million. Now in 2015 the projected cost of the library proposal is over $50 million.
The poll results presented to the County Board regarding Lancaster County residents showed current library services as being the 6th highest rated community amenity. Parks and recreation had the highest percentage (84%) of residents being somewhat or very satisfied with their community services, followed by restaurants (83%), fire protection (82.2%), retail shopping (77.7%), and entertainment (77%), respectively. One of the more pressing areas of concern as evidenced in both polls was satisfaction with streets and roads. In fact, 58% of respondents in the Metro Poll reported being somewhat or very dissatisfied with their community’s streets and roads, and respondents in the Taking Charge survey rated street maintenance lowest in terms of satisfaction.
“Funding a library project on the Pershing site at a cost of more than $50 million, with a direct tax increase through the bond process, seems short-sighted when compared to other serious problems faced by the Lincoln community, including the poor condition of our streets and roads,” Mach said.
 Beutler rejects all Pershing Center proposals, Lincoln Journal Star, November 20, 2012, available online at http://journalstar.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/beutler-rejects-all-pershing-center-proposals/article_ef3f3913-3444-5d30-90cf-59ae335cbcad.html.