Benton Harbor Public Library may be on its last chapter

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. -- Benton Harbor Public Library is struggling to keep its doors open.  The library is a couple hundred thousand dollars short, and the board says something has to be done before its too late.

The library is the only public library in the City of  Benton Harbor and Benton Township, and for many people - especially students, it is the only place with computers and public internet service.  

But without more money, Benton Harbor Public Library could be in its own final chapter.

Librarians say books and the internet bring in any where from 60 to 100 kids every day, giving them a safe place to do homework until their parents get home from work.  

But soon, this place that builds futures, and is full of stories, is about to have an abrupt ending.

"We are less a couple hundred thousand dollars. It happened so fast we didn’t really have time to plan for it," explained Mamie L. Yarbrough, president of Benton Harbor Public Library.

Library directors are scrambling for cash after Benton Township cut most of their funding.

Starting in 2014, the only money the township is forking over to the library is speeding fines, also known as penal funds.

Yarbrough says that will not be enough to keep the lights on.

The library is desperate to keep the doors open and employees paid.

"We’ve already cut our hours, we have furlough days. And as we cut our employees' hours.It cuts their pay, and we don’t know how much longer they are going to stick with us," said Yarbrough.

At 89 years old, Margaret Williams says she cannot imagine this community staple going under.

"I still come here to get books, I have a library card, I come and get books, especially about the computer, I have every book they ever wrote about how to work a computer."

And Yarbrough wishes she could rewrite the librabry’s story, with a last minute hero and a fairytale ending.

"We cant give up, we cant let this go."

Now, it could up to  the residents in the township and the city to swoop in to save the day.  

They may soon be voting on whether or not they want to make Benton Harbor Public Library a district library, which means residents would pay taxes for it.

 The library board says it is not a quick fix, but an option they are forced to look into.

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