The majority of Nashville’s libraries would have to close if a special referendum succeeds in rolling back Metro’s recent 34% property tax increase.
That’s the fear being shared by Nashville Public Library Director Kent Oliver. He’s already making emergency plans because of Metro estimate that such a revenue change would leave the city with a $332 million shortfall.
“This will fundamentally change what the Nashville Public Library is,” Oliver says, “and potentially what this could do to us would be to really eliminate and slash our services to the point that they would be bare bones at best and probably not even bare bones.”
Oliver says just two or three of Nashville’s 21 libraries would be able to stay open — likely the main downtown library and two large regional branches.
Library patrons would experience longer wait times, more difficulty using computer labs and slashed literacy programs.
The library director is the latest city official to voice concerns about the anti-taxation referendum that’s being proposed for December.
More than 20,000 petitioners asked for a countywide vote. While such an election is yet to be officially scheduled, a raft of local leaders have gone public with strong opposition and dire predictions.
Oliver says the library system would be vulnerable to widespread librarian layoffs, since a large share of its funding goes toward staff. And most maintenance or construction related to libraries would likely grind to a halt, an idea he calls “hard to swallow” for a library network that was named the best in the nation in 2017.
“We like to think our library users deserve better than what this would potentially do,” Oliver says. “We certainly won’t be able to grow or do the things for Nashville that need to be done.”