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Library officials in Kansas City, Mo., are proposing to close branch libraries in public schools and instead open four branches in various neighborhoods and five branches in shopping malls.

"Malls have become Mainstreet U.S.A.," said Jack Hammond, associate director for business and support services for the Kansas City Public Library. "If that's where the people are, that's where the public library should be."

Eight of the library system's 13 branches are in public schools, a practice that began in 1915, Mr. Hammond said. But schools need the library space to house "school-library media centers," which are required to qualify for a "Triple A" rating from the state, he said.

The Kansas City Board of Education, which also serves as the governing board of the city's library system, had planned to phase out the school-based library branches anyway, but the space problem accelerated the timetable, Mr. Hammond said.

"Our research shows that many people are reluctant to use public libraries situated on school grounds, particularly the elderly and young mothers with children," Mr. Hammond said. "Also, these facilities are very small and cramped and difficult to keep open on evenings, Saturdays, and Sundays."

Mr. Hammond said the board will ask voters to approve in April an 85-percent increase in the library tax-levy rate, from 21 cents to 39 cents per $100 assessment.

Three out of four parents whose children attend Roman Catholic schools in the Chicago area rate them "excellent" or "very good," according to the results of a survey released earlier this month.

But the $100,000 study, commissioned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago and conducted by the accounting firm Peat Marwick and Mitchell, also found that most of the 1,066 parents surveyed believe the schools are "very vulnerable" financially, said Sister Cathy Campbell, a spokesman for the archdiocesan office of education.

Thirty-six percent of the survey respondents rated the schools "excellent" and 38 percent rated them "very good," Sister Cathy said. Only 1 percent gave the schools a "poor" rating, while 6 percent rated them "fair," she said.

A summary report of the findings stated that the responding parents ''overwhelmingly believe the students in Catholic schools show more respect for their teachers, demonstrate greater academic ability, conduct themselves better, and devote more time to their studies" than do students in non-Catholic schools.

Fifty-eight Catholic high schools and 360 Catholic elementary schools enrolling a total of 177,330 students operate within the Archdiocese of Chicago, which encompasses both Cook and Lake Counties.

Vol. 05, Issue 04

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