When 12-year-old Emily Orr learned that the Malcolm Library might have to close its doors, she wanted to go out and sell something to help raise money for it.
But her mother told her that wouldn't work.
She and her 13-year-old brother, Blake, live close enough to walk to the library at 2960 Sunridge Heights Parkway, Suite 100, in Henderson. But they predict their library visits would end if they needed someone to drive them to one farther away; their household is just too busy.
"I would be very disappointed because this is like my source of books," Blake Orr said recently after attending a teen program called Freaky Food! at the Malcolm Library.
Tom Fay, executive director of Henderson District Public Libraries, said both the Malcolm and Galleria libraries will close if voters reject a tax initiative on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Revenue losses have prompted the library district to seek a property tax increase of 2 cents per $100 of assessed value to avoid library closures and related job losses. That equates to an additional $7 a year for the owner of a $100,000 home.
Fay said he could have made the choice himself to shutter the two libraries, but he didn't want to.
"I fundamentally believe that every citizen of Henderson has the right to decide what their community's going to look like," he said. "Is that a community with libraries or a community without libraries? And in this case, the voters are going to decide."
Ballot question committees have prepared arguments for and against passage of the library question. Early voting starts Oct. 20.
According to the argument in favor of passage, "We have not increased funding for our libraries since 1991. Library hours and staff have already been cut."
But the committee opposing passage argued that "the days of funding every wish list program are over. Henderson Library District will have to live within its means."
The claim that library branches will close if the question fails "is an emotional scare tactic," according to the argument against passage.
Fay insisted he is not bluffing when he says he will close the Malcolm and Galleria libraries if voters reject the tax initiative.
"There is no rescue here," Fay said. "There is no City Council or County Commission vote that can save that."
The library district is not part of the city of Henderson, although the two entities share boundaries.
A decline in the assessed value of property has resulted in a 28 percent drop in property tax revenue for the library district since fiscal 2010, and that revenue is expected to continue declining over the next three years. The district's current annual budget, which includes other tax revenue, is $6.7 million.
Henderson residents voted against the district's request for additional tax revenues in both 2001 and 2002.
Fay said those questions were placed on the ballot to fund the construction of new libraries.
"We've never done it in the sense of trying to keep the doors open," he said.
Henderson's six libraries are staffed by 95 people. Fay said the library district had a staff of about 135 people four years ago.
All employees, including Fay, took a 10 percent pay cut in 2010.
Fay said the number of employees has been reduced through attrition. So far, the district has had no layoffs. Volunteers also put in thousands of hours each year.
"There's only so far you can stretch," Fay said.
He said about 125,000 people visit Henderson libraries each month. They check out books and CDs, and they use the libraries' computers, often to submit job applications. Others check out e-books online "and never grace the doors," Fay said.
The Galleria Library opened in 2008 on the lower level of the Galleria at Sunset mall, near Kohl's.
On a recent weekday, several mothers stopped by the small branch, each with a child in tow. Jeanna Meredith came with her 3-year-old daughter, Amber, who immediately began playing with a puzzle made of colored, magnetic shapes.
Meredith likes to reserve books online and have them waiting for her at the Galleria branch, a convenient location considering she also has daughters who are 16 and 20. On this day, her oldest daughter was interviewing for a job in the mall.
The mother, who used to work in the mall herself, said she was not aware of the tax initiative but will vote for it if she can. She lives in Las Vegas now but plans to move to Henderson by October.
Henderson resident Nichole Ventus visited the Galleria Library with son Gabriel, who turns 2 on Wednesday. She said she usually checks out books and DVDs for Gabriel.
"I did check out a potty training book for me - to teach him," she added.
Like Meredith, she did not know about the tax initiative. She was saddened to learn that the Galleria Library could close, but for religious reasons, she will not vote.
As she talked, Gabriel and Amber began playing together in an area designated for young children.
"She always meets somebody here," Meredith said of her youngest daughter.
Outreach librarian Lisa Phelan said about 80 people visit the mall branch on a typical day.
"As you can see, moms talk to moms," she said. "This branch is special because it's a different type of library experience."
Phelan, who faces the loss of her job if the library closes, said the intimate atmosphere makes it possible to develop relationships with regulars. She talks to them about the books they like and makes recommendations.
The branch also attracts tourists and mall employees who come to check their email on its computer.
Although it's small, the library has many current, popular titles on its shelves.
"You are bound to find something you're going to love in here," Phelan said.
The library district rents the space for $15,000 a year. "Very cheap for a mall," Fay noted.
He said cutting back library services, simply put, means reducing access to information.
According to the ballot argument in favor of the tax question, libraries are important to everyone.
Fay concurred, saying Henderson libraries serve every socioeconomic group. They also serve people of every age, "all the way from birth to death, and there are very few public institutions that do that," he said.
Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at email@example.com or 702-384-8710.