Little opposition to library levy

If the index reads right, signs are pointing to the North Olympic Library System's levy lift passing on Aug. 17.

Support has come in from throughout Clallam County for the proposed increase from 33 cents to 50 cents per $1,000 assessed property valuation.

Chambers of commerce, cities, county commissioners, real estate brokers, Olympic Medical Center commissioners and more than 400 individuals have endorsed the levy lift.

Support has been so positive that debates scheduled for July 20 and 24 were canceled due to no one speaking against the tax increase.

Members of Citizens for Libraries Elaine Frederickson and Jim Roberts speak in favor of the library levy lift at a Sequim school board meeting. “I think people are seeing the value of libraries,” Roberts said. They see what we do is more than just books — it’s children’s programs, databases through our Web site and groups meeting. All you have to do is get a library card.” The school board endorsed the levy.  Sequim Gazette photo by Mike Dashiell

Books and pie

"The library might rank up there with Mom and apple pie," said Margaret Klover, president of the Port Angeles Citizens for Libraries group.

She and other volunteers with the citizens groups in Sequim, Clallam Bay, Forks and Port Angeles are finding consistent support for the libraries.

"A good, strong library reflects a community and the community I'm aware of is behind the levy," Klover said.

"There are people out there who won't vote for it, but that happens in every election."

Levy backers say the persistent issue for those opposed is an increase in taxes.

Paula Barnes, NOLS executive director, said the issue for some is the economy and bad economic times rather than their feelings on the library.

Cordial debate

Even one outspoken Sequim opponent agrees the levy will pass.

Bob Leonard, who spoke out at a Clallam County commissioners meeting prior to their endorsement, said the timing of the election will lead to a majority vote.

"(Library backers) will have enough people to turn out because it's an off year and in August."

"Right now I'm sure it will pass."

Leonard, a retired safety engineer from California, doesn't believe he's an activist but felt he needed to speak out.

Taking issue

Leonard doesn't see why the libraries are asking for money when they have a surplus in excess of $800,000 available from a Reserve for Economic Uncertainty account.

In 2009, NOLS board members balanced the 2010 budget shortfall of $176,000 by transferring about $88,000 from this fund to coincide with library staff agreeing to two one-week furloughs.

"A request for an increase with a surplus is obscene," Leonard said.

"These people want an increase, but it takes 10 years until we can do anything about it."

Barnes said if the libraries were to operate only on their reserves, they would last only about one-third of a year.

"If the levy fails, then next year then we'd have to use even more reserves," she said.

"Nobody thinks it would be prudent to exhaust the savings."

Savings for building

Barnes said the library system has $1,087,446 saved toward ownership of the Port Angeles library's building.

In 1994, Port Angeles city councilors put building that library on the ballot after NOLS tried and failed.

Once it passed, the library needed to save $1,113,670 by 2016 to gain ownership.

Barnes said once they save the money, it won't go to the city but will be designated for future capital needs.

In Sequim, the branch received a makeover in April 2009 to make the building more organized and esthetically pleasing.

Money came from the

Sequim Friends of the Library with $150,000, a donation from an estate and money in a capital account.

Remaining money went to a sewer project.

Growing need

In the past few months, Sequim's branch has checked out more books and media than the bigger Port Angeles branch and the numbers continue to rise.

Barnes attributes some of the growth to the remodel and to other things.

"Our library policies are a lot friendlier," she said.

"We also limit how much people can check out at one time - also the effect of the economy - people are looking for more ways to be cost effective."

"This isn't just happening in Sequim but across the whole system."

Volunteering upswing

Leonard first heard a testimonial on the libraries' levy at a retired scientists' meeting in Sequim.

A library staff member spoke on how levy dollars could help bring in more volunteers, which caused Leonard to ask,

"If they are going to have a robust volunteer program, why don't they have that now, especially with a down economy?" Barnes said she and the staff are working on it and that since the end of 2009 they've gone from 30 volunteers to 84.

"At the end of 2010, it's going to be a dramatic change from 2009," Barnes said.

Levy backers all said they remain hopeful for the levy to pass on Aug. 17.

More information on the levy can be found online at and look for an informational pamphlet being mailed to your home or call Sequim Library at 683-1161.

Ballots are mailed July 28.

Reach Matthew Nash at

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