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Time for an Update on Telling Mansion

posted May 19, 2015, 12:11 PM by Fran Mentch

Time for an update on Telling Mansion.

Despite strong community protest, Telling Mansion, the South Euclid-Lyndhurst branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library (CCPL) was sold in December 2013. The CCPL Board and Director were asked to poll citizens and let them decide whether or not to sell Telling. The Board and Director refused to include the citizens in the decision about whether or not to sell Telling.

There was never any justification for the sale of Telling Mansion.

According to CCPL’s own consultants, it would have cost $5 million to upgrade Telling Mansion; that included installing an elevator and other ADA features, which seemed to be an important issue to patrons.

Instead of spending $5 million, CCPL is spending $12.6 million to build a BIGGER library- in an era of fewer print books. Does a community and county with shrinking population and declining income need a bigger library that costs two and a half times what it would cost to renovate the current library?

Mark my words, there is nothing that will be done in the new library that could not have been done in Telling Mansion’s buildings.

Please go visit one of the new CCPL buildings you can’t miss them, they are the generic looking buildings with the huge letters “LIBRARY” placed on top of them.  Then ask yourself, “Is it worth $7.6 million to put all the DVDs and books on one floor?

Some citizens tell themselves that “at least Telling Mansion has been preserved”.

This is not true.

The purchaser, Dick Barone, has been asked repeatedly to sign documents agreeing to preserve Telling Mansion, but he has refused. Because no federal funds were spent on the building, its historic designation as an Ohio Landmark and listing on the National Register of Historic Places provides no protection. Dick Barone can do whatever he wants to Telling Mansion, include tear it down.

There is no public building that you can move about and use with the freedom that you can in a public library. When the library moves out in October, Dick Barone plans to close Telling Mansion.  When it reopens in 2017 as a “museum”, you will have to pay to get in.

The public paid for Telling Mansion for the past 63 years; our public wealth has been transferred to one very wealthy person, Dick Barone.  The terms of the lease that Dick Barone negotiated with CCPL required that he pay no property taxes while he rents Telling Mansion to them.  He will no doubt attempt to use the non-profit status of the “museum” to avoid paying property taxes, unlike the rest of us, and to decrease his personal tax liability.

It seems only fair for Dick Barone to establish a fund to pay for his fair share of the infrastructure costs that his “museum” will incur. His “museum” customers will use public roads to get to his “museum”; the fire and police departments will protect his property. He will contribute nothing to pay for the public schools. Haven't we given him enough? Shouldn't he agree to pay his fair share of public services by making a voluntary payment to the school district and the city every year?

By the way, CCPL claimed it had to sell Telling because it could not afford to pay for its upkeep. Why is it that Dick Barone was not concerned about this? Probably because the argument has no basis in fact.  (Even if this were true, the $12.6 million CCPL is spending on the new library buys a lot of "upkeep".)

Somehow the Cleveland Public Library manages to operate  21st century libraries in 100 year old historic buildings and the Library of Congress manages to operate a 21st century library in an historic building  that is 118 years old.  The Cleveland Heights-University Heights Library operates branches in buildings built in the 1920s-1930s. But, CCPL is unable to operate a 21st century library in an historic building that was built in 1930.  Some of you reading this live a home built before Telling was.

A long list of local elected officials were asked to bring CCPL to the table to talk with citizens; all of these elected officials sided with and supported and many helped CCPL ram the sale of Telling Mansion down our throats.  Only Lyndhurst City Council stood up for citizens and I thank them for acting as ethical public officials.

We citizens were deceived and manipulated. We were pushed out of the conversation—but our tax dollars were not. Another misconception out there is that if you do not have a CCPL library in your community, then you do not support CCPL with your taxes, so what CCPL does is none of your business.  It’s important for taxpayers to know that about 25% of CCPL’s tax revenue, all public libraries’ tax revenue, come from the state—so everyone who pays Ohio state taxes helps to support CCPL and all libraries.  (Libraries also get some federal monies.)

 But, it's true that those who own property in South Euclid and Lyndhurst bear a greater share of the debt incurred by CCPL for the new CCPL branch being built across the street from Notre Dame College. Telling Mansion library was walking distance from the public high school and junior high school; the new library is not walking distance for junior and senior high school students, but is across the street from a private college.

Many, many of the comments people made on the 3500 petitions to save Telling were about  children and childhood. People wrote about loving to visit Telling as a child, or the pleasure it brought to their children and grandchildren. Telling was called the "castle library" by many generations; its architecture and design excited a lot of imaginations. What could be better than reading a fairy tale in a real castle?

Why this update? To encourage you to go look at Telling Mansion for one last time.  It is a sight to behold. It was one of the most interesting, unique and beautiful public libraries in the country. By selling Telling Mansion the CCPL Board and Director dispossessed us of wealth, history, culture and pleasure.

Our lives are now a little coarser and cheaper because of this loss.

Don't you owe it to yourself to go and say goodbye?