SOUNDOFF: Library needs people's help

When I think of a library, I think of a place that supports learning as a lifelong activity, promotes and promises books and reading as enjoyable pastimes, and celebrates information and communities under a single roof. No other library system I’ve worked for achieves these worthy objectives better than the community libraries of the Sno-Isle Regional Library System.

The mission of the Sno-Isle Regional Library System is to be a community doorway to reading, resources, and lifelong learning, and a center for people, ideas, and culture. That mission is achieved every day in all of your Sno-Isle community libraries, including those on Whidbey Island. Libraries are one of the few public institutions that are open in the evenings and on the weekends. Libraries provide a service that is unmatched anywhere else.

Today, your libraries need your help.

Preliminary revenue estimates for 2004 show that Sno-Isle Regional Library System will have $800,000 less than it needs next year to maintain the current level of service. The shortfall is the result of state-mandated revenue limitations, increasing costs, and growing demands for service.

This shortfall is not unexpected. Over the last two years, the Library District has reduced or deferred $2.5 million in costs, including reducing the equipment budget by more than $550,000. We have been able to do this with minimal impacts to service. That won’t be possible in 2004.

The Sno-Isle Regional Library Board of Trustees is asking our customers what services are most important to them and their families. We’ll use your comments as we move forward in developing the 2004 budget. Generally, the Board is asking for public feedback on the following service areas:

l Open Hours: Should the Library District consider a permanent hours reduction, or look at temporary closures to reduce costs?

l Materials: This includes all materials that check-out or can be used in the library, such as books, magazines, videos, and tapes.

l Programming: All libraries offer a variety of programs, such as preschool storytimes, book discussions groups, or events for school age children.

l Technology: Sno-Isle Regional Library provides remote and in-library access to many subscribed databases, the library catalog, and the Internet through public computers.

We don’t want to make these tough decisions that affect your library in a vacuum. We want to know what you think about your library, which services are the most important to you and your family, and where you feel budget cuts can be made without compromising the services you need most.

You may participate by:

l Attending a meeting Tuesday, June 17, at 7 p.m. at the Oak Harbor Public Library.

l Completing an online survey at www.sno-isle.org.

l Writing a letter or sending an e-mail to the Sno-Isle Regional Library System Board of Trustees, 7312 35th Ave NE, Marysville, WA 98271, or trustees@sno-isle.org.

l Attending a library Board meeting. Our next meeting will be at 1 p.m. on Friday, June 27, at the Monroe Library at 1070 Village Way, Monroe. The July meeting is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Monday, July 28, at the Sno-Isle Regional Library Service Center at 7312 35th Ave NE, Marysville.

If you just want more information on library spending and revenue, I invite you read the White Paper available online at www.sno-isle.org/whitepaper, or stop by your local Sno-Isle Regional Library for a copy.

Libraries are an important piece of a free and informed society. Your feedback will help us make the best decisions for you, your family, and your community.

By Jonalyn Woolf-Ivory is Library Director of the Sno-Isle Regional Library System.

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