Library leaders mull future

More books, materials and longer hours are on their way in 2012 with the passing of the North Olympic Library System's levy lid lift.

Optimism was high among 14,245 supporters who voted 59 percent in favor of paying 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed property valuation for 2011.

Paula Barnes, the library system's executive director, said the new levy lid lift for one year helps with financial security for the next 10 years.

The libraries' board members kept the good news coming on Aug. 23 with a vote canceling the unpaid furlough that would have shut all libraries from Aug. 30-Sept. 4. "The voters of Clallam County just sent a clear message that the library is important," said Nina Pitts, the libraries' board chairman.

"If we now have a way to keep all the libraries open and to keep the staff from having to go without a week's pay, we should keep them open."

The board plans to borrow $35,000, which the furlough would have saved, from the libraries' Reserve for Economic Uncertainty fund. The reasoning was that the reserves fund would be replenished in 2011 when the levy lid lift begins collection.

One furlough already closed libraries from March 29-April 3.

Barnes said furloughs wouldn't happen in 2011 due to the levy passing.

Not so fast, or not fast enough

Board members might need to dip into reserves again for the 2011 budget.

This year's budget saw a $176,000 shortfall, which the board and staff dealt with by transferring $88,000 from reserves and approving the furloughs.

Jim Roberts, libraries' board member, said that he and other board members most likely would vote in favor of transferring from reserves for one more year until the levy money is available.

Staff attributes the shortfall to a rising inflation rate, gradually decreasing federal support and a Washington budget cap of 1 percent per year.

Barnes said if the levy lid lift hadn't passed, it would have been difficult for the libraries to find other revenue because not many options are available.

"Grants are for special projects and private projects, not general expenses," she said.

Bigger bindings

One of the biggest questions for Sequim Library users is if a new building is a possibility.

Sequim's circulation of materials recently outgrew that of the larger Port Angeles branch and all branch managers report continued rising use.

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

Lauren Dahlgren,

Sequim branch manager, said they've tried addressing space problems by taking older items off the shelves, such as books and media, but cramped conditions remains a concern.

Barnes said staff pledged to address the cramped space inside the library if the levy passed by planning for a new and/or expanded library.

Funding for the project won't come from the levy but planning could. The latter could start in 2012 with a proposal to follow. If a project passes the proposal phase, Sequim voters would determine the fate of the project through a voter-approved bond.

"We'd do a needs-assessment with the community to determine how much space is needed," Barnes said.

"Assessment and analysis would go hand-and-hand."

Barnes said the most likely way to expand/build a new facility would be by asking voters of the district, which spans from Carlsborg to the Jefferson County border.

A new building might be jumping ahead but, for now, library supporters are relieved their efforts paid off for the levy lid lift.

"We put the best case forward that we could," Roberts said.

For more on the libraries, visit or call the Sequim Library at 683-1162.

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