The Lafayette Public Library Board voted Monday for a committee to explore building a Northeast Regional Library east of the Evangeline Thruway.
The 11-person committee will consist of four of the volunteer board’s seven members plus five citizens and two library staffers, according to board member Landon Boudreaux, who will chair the new committee and outlined its charge Monday.
“We're going to try to meet, hopefully have an initial meeting to introduce everybody, before the end of the year,” Boudreaux said.
The Northeast Regional Library committee’s members will be:
Landon Boudreaux, Chair (Board member)
Robert Judge (Board member)
Doug Palombo (Board member)
James Thomas (Board member)
Danny Gillane (Library director)
Larry Angelle (Library operations manager)
Azadeh Yazdi (Community member)
Nureaka Ross (Community member)
Alton Trahan (Community member)
Lynette Mejia (Community member)
Maisha Chargois (Community member)
The push for a new Northeast Regional Library was revived this fall after falling off in 2019 when voters ultimately decided to rededicate $10 million of the library’s reserve funds to drainage and park improvements.
Currently, there are no public library locations east of the Evangeline Thruway, where around 35,000 Lafayette Parish residents live, roughly half of whom are Black.
But the Nov. 13 millage election that threatened roughly 40% of the library’s annual funding gave life to an opportunity to renew calls for the additional branch.
Without a promise the new location would be built, a group of Black leaders urged residents to vote against the millage renewal, leading to widespread rejection of the measure on Lafayette’s majority-Black Northside.
Majority-Black precincts almost unanimously rejected the renewal, which was passed parish-wide by a 59% to 41% margin.
All but two of the parish’s 23 majority-Black precincts rejected the renewal totaling 42% for and 58% against, though lower turnout put those precincts at just 8% of the vote parish-wide despite accounting for 12% of registered voters.
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Though the library won the Nov. 13 renewal to secure about 40% of its annual revenues for another 10 years, the system is still reeling from the loss of a millage in 2018, when voters rejected a tax that ultimately cut 27% of the system’s previous annual revenues, leaving it in rough financial shape as it prepared for last weekend’s renewal.
So far, cuts at the library haven’t involved permanently closing any of its locations, but making budgetary room for a new facility will mean shifting funding priorities for the system, and Boudreaux suggested Monday that may mean closing smaller satellite locations to pay for building the new branch.
“I think that we can right size the budget and have a profit instead of a deficit, and we can probably consolidate some satellite branches into another location to provide a library to a part of that community that does have physical barriers from accessing this library and others throughout the parish,” he said.
“There's still a lot of work to do to make sure that's a reality and if we have to cut a little more, that's okay. We can do that,” he added.
This article originally appeared on Lafayette Daily Advertiser: Library board creates Northeast branch committee after millage renewal