Detroit Public Library

The Detroit Public Library.
DPL / Facebook

Forty-seven year old Timothy Cromer was the focus of the FBI’s raid of the Detroit Public Library back in November 2012. Cromer was the library’s chief administrative and technology officer.

Christine MacDonald of the Detroit News has been writing about this case for some time. She reports that Cromer plead guilty to taking $1.4 million in kickbacks from contractors. Two Detroit Public Library contractors were also charged in the FBI’s case.

Detroit Public Library

Tim Cromer, the former chief administrative officer for the Detroit Public Library, was charged with taking $1.4 million dollars in bribes.

Cromer and two contractors were indicted on 21 counts after the FBI raided the library offices last November.

Christine MacDonald of The Detroit News has more:

Library officials won't say why, but Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cromer was fired yesterday. Cromer had been on paid leave since the FBI's mid-November raid. Check out the story in the Detroit News... - Chris Zollars, Michigan Radio Newsroom

The Detroit Public Library.
DPL / Facebook

The FBI conducted a raid at the Detroit Public Library this morning.

The Detroit News reports agents arrived around 8 a.m. and left around 11 a.m.

The agents left carrying cardboard boxes and computer equipment, according to the News.

Library spokesman A.J. Funchess said agents presented search warrants when they arrived but didn't go into detail about the investigation.

Brian Short / Michigan Radio

Urban neighborhood libraries are on the decline.

Detroit, Flint, Dearborn and other cities have recently had to close some of their library branches in order to save money, which means access to free computers and computer training is becoming more limited.

But in Detroit, there’s a group working to close the digital divide.

Discothèque vs. Discotech

This story takes place at a "discotech."

Not the kind of discotheque where you flaunt your best dance moves in platform shoes, but the kind of discotech where Google, Twitter and Facebook are center stage.

Here, discotech stands for DISCOvering TECHnology.

It's a traveling technology workshop that looks a lot like a pop-up science fair, with laptops, poster boards, wires and circuits all around the room.

Diana Nucera, one of the Discotech organizers, says the event is about "showing the possibility of technology to make our personal connections stronger."

Yuba College Public Space / Flickr

Protesters in Detroit hope that staking out a recently-shuttered library branch will convince officials to re-open it.

Four Detroit library branches--Lincoln, Monteith, Mark Twain, and Richard--closed their doors for good just before Christmas.

But library defenders say they’ll stake out the Lincoln branch library, and try to stop any efforts to remove the library’s inventory.

Shanta Driver is with the activist group By Any Means Necessary, which organized the effort. She says neighbors are watching the library, and they’ve organized a phone tree to bring in enough people to surround the library if and when moving trucks show up.

 “There’s so many people in the neighborhood who have been watching, and just keeping tabs on what’s going on here, that I think we can be here,” Driver says.

BAMN and other library advocates say the branches are a vital resource in their neighborhoods, and closing them would deal a devastating blow.

Detroit Public Library officials say it’s a necessary move to cut costs in the face of declining revenues, and cover staff shortages.

Detroit Public Library

Four branches of the Detroit Public Library system will shut their doors for good this week.

Library officials say it’s just a reflection of fiscal reality. But that’s cold comfort to Detroiters who will lose their neighborhood branches.

One of those branches is the Monteith library, on the city’s far east side. Residents there say their library is one of the last community institutions they have left—and shuttering it will be a devastating blow.

Yuba College Public Space / Flickr

Four branches of the Detroit Public Library system will close this week, despite a last-minute push to keep them open.

Supporters of the four branches packed the Detroit Library Commission meeting Tuesday.

The Commission actually voted to close the libraries last month. But library advocates were hoping Commissioners would issue them a temporary reprieve, so they could try and raise money to keep the branches open.

But Commissioners refused to move the issue, meaning the branches will close as scheduled on December 22.

The Detroit Public Library is forming a task force to figure out how to continue to provide its most essential services to residents.

The library laid off 79 staff this spring due to revenue shortfalls. 

Now, six of its branches may close because of the staffing cuts.

Executive Director Jo Anne Mundowney says revenues will likely continue to fall.  Ninety percent of the library's revenue comes from property taxes, which are declining.

Niala Boodhoo / Changing Gears

What happens when your local library shuts its doors? That’s a question Midwestern towns from Evanston, Ill., to Troy, Mich., are asking as local libraries are targeted in budget cuts.

I went to Northwest Indiana, where the Gary Library Board has just decided to close its main branch, to find out the impact on a local community.

Gary has five library branches. The other four have names, like Kennedy, or Du Bois. This one is simply called the "main library."

user taubach / Flickr

The Detroit Public Library is facing accusations of "nepotism, cronyism and mismanagement" according to a report published in the Detroit News.

The accusations are becoming public at a time when the Detroit library system faces an $11 million deficit and is  considering closing most of its branches. Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett reported that "one proposal would leave only five of 23 branches open."

The News says top executives at the Library have family members on the payroll and contracts worth thousands of dollars have been awarded to relatives.

From the Detroit News:

Hiring relatives is so common at the library that about one in six staffers have relatives among the 376 employees, according to an internal review obtained by The Detroit News.

"This nepotism and cronyism has led to the downfall of the city," said Reginald Amos, a retired Detroit Fire Department deputy chief and resident who said the family hires remind him of ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's administration. "It's the friends-and-family plan. It's not about serving the people. It's self-serving."

The Detroit Public Library's human resource director, Trinee Moore - one of the officials accused of nepotism, told the News that there are safeguards in place to prevent preferential treatment and that the Detroit Public Library is no different than other businesses where family members are referred for employment.

So how do you know when the line is being crossed? Is nepotism just a fact of life in politics and business?

NPR's Steve Inskeep discussed these questions with a writer for Harvard Business Online

calamity_sal / flickr

An $11 million deficit could force Detroit Public Library commissioners to close the vast majority of the system’s branches. Commissioners are weighing a few options. But all of them call for closing at least half the library branches in the city, and one proposal would leave only five of 23 branches open.

Shrinking tax revenues are largely to blame for the system’s budget shortfall.

Detroit is not alone. Libraries all over Michigan are struggling with falling tax revenues and cuts to state aid. Even Troy, a relatively affluent suburb of Detroit, is closing its library.

Detroit library commissioners are expected to finalize their plans for eliminating the deficit next month.

Detroit Public Library

People losing their local Borders bookstore may turn to their local library for books and DVD’s. But that may put an even bigger strain on Michigan’s already-struggling libraries.

Libraries face a tough paradox.  People tend to use them more when the economy is bad. But a bad economy also means they get fewer resources to work with.