proposed | services | funding | governance | local effects

The New Ark Library Committee is proposing a library district for East Marion county and a small portion of Linn county. A library district is similar to a fire district or a school district. It would be supported by property taxes, and would be governed by an elected board of directors. Why a library district? To provide stability, economies of scale, inclusiveness, and enhanced services.Because a library district is a permanent funding source, there would be no need for local-option levies, and library closures (such as the recent one in Sweet Home in Linn county) would be a thing of the past. Library budgets couldn't be cut to fund other services, such as water and sewer improvements. Economies of scale would create huge cost savings. For example, computer software support could be provided district-wide at a reduced cost.
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Who would be eligible to use the new system, and which libraries could they use?
Under the district proposal, any resident within the district could check out books housed at any library in the system. This would vastly increase the resources available to everyone. The Cooperative Regional Library System (CRLS) currently includes 18 libraries.

What about services to rural residents who live far from any library, or for homebound persons who cannot get to a library?
Our bookmobile would bring books and other library materials to communities that have none. A volunteer-run courier service or a books-by-mail service, could deliver directly to those who are physically unable to visit a library. Materials available would include large-print books and "talking books."

How would I know what materials the libraries in the system have?
Libraries would continue to share an electronic catalog as CRLS members. Library patrons could look up any book or video or audio recording in the system, from any New Ark Library.

What hours would libraries be open?
Library hours at each of the existing libraries will be extended, because a district can make better use of staff time than individual libraries currently can.

What changes might I see in library reference service?
The larger libraries would have reference librarians on staff; the smaller ones would provide immediate, toll-free access to a professional reference librarian. Patrons would have access to more electronic reference sources.

Don't schools provide adequate library services - for children, at least?
School libraries are closed during the summer, over holidays, and on weekends--periods when children have the most time for library browsing and leisure reading. School libraries are also closed in the evenings, when students often need to do research for school assignments. Because of continual budget shortfalls, few schools today employ professional librarians or devote adequate funds to new library materials. Although even poorly funded school libraries can enhance children's learning, they can't take the place of good public libraries. With a district library system, children's librarians will plan and lead story times, summer reading activities, and other educational programs.
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What would I pay for library service under the district proposal?
Currently proposed is a tax rate of 62 to 72 cents per thousand dollars in assessed value. An owner of a $150,000 home would pay $93 to $108 per year. Some Oregon residents pay much more for library services, some pay less. A 70-cent rate would provide about $33.40 per capita for library expenditures annually - about average among similar library systems in Oregon.

Why does a library district provide better value than a city-run system?
Because of economies of scale. It is simply more efficient to share such services as an electronic catalog, a reference hotline, computer maintenance, and online subscription databases. These economies can free up funds for more books and other materials, longer library hours, more library specialists, more electronic resources, and more educational and entertaining programs for both children and adults.

Why is funding through a library district more stable than current funding methods?
Our three public libraries are currently funded through each city's general fund, a local option levy, or a combination of the two. If a local option levy fails, a library may be closed, as occurred recently in Sweet Home in Linn county, or hours and/or staff may be cut substantially. And local option levies require periodic campaigns, which consume time and money that might otherwise go into enhancing local libraries and their services. Libraries funded through general funds are subject to the city's budget-making process, and so may succeed or fail depending on the priorities of the current city council. A special library district is an independent taxing entity, funded by property taxes assessed at a permanent rate.

How would a library district affect school funding?
Measure 5 allows $5 per $1,000 of assessed value for school taxes, and $10 per $1,000 for government taxes. Since the library district would fall into the "government" category, it would not compete with schools for tax funds.
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What is a special library district?
A special library district is similar to a fire district or a school district. It is governed by an elected board and is funded by property taxes. In the proposed plan, board members would be chosen by zone, so that all residents would have representation on the board. The proposed library district would have five zones.

How is a library district formed?
A library district if formed by a vote of the people. The New Ark Library Committee is at this time planning to put the library district on the November 2006 ballot.

How would the branch librarians be chosen?
All current staff would be retained in their same locations, as required by state law. When a position became open, the local library advisory board might solicit applications, interview candidates, and recommend suitable candidates to the district library director and board.

What power would local library boards retain? What influence would these boards have with the district board?
Local boards would have a strong advisory role in the new district. They would work with the district library board and district director to develop appropriate policies both for particular libraries and for the district as a whole.

Who would own library buildings? Who would be responsible for grounds maintenance, building repair and such? What about equipment in the library?
Cities could continue to own their own library buildings. Computers, photocopy machines and other library equipment would be owned and maintained by the library district. Maintenance of the building and grounds would probably be provided by each city, but this has yet to be decided.
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Local Effects
How would my local library change?
The New Ark Library Committee recognizes that residents love their local libraries. Our goal is to retain the unique features and personalized service now provided at local libraries, while adding the benefits of a modern library system. Your local library would just get better.

Would books owned by a local library remain in that library or would they be dispersed throughout the system?
The books in a library will keep their permanent home in that library, but will be available for loan throughout the district, as they currently are through CRLS.

Would special collections and archive books remain at their current location? Would they be circulated to other libraries?
Special collections could be listed in the district electronic catalog as "non-circulating." People would travel to the library that houses these resources to use them.

Would residents still be able to make contributions to their local library?
Contributions to individual libraries would still be made through nonprofit Friends of the Library groups or library foundations. These monies would NOT go to the library district.

How would volunteers fit into the county system?
There would be no change in the volunteer system for individual libraries. At some point in the future, the library district could make volunteer training available for folks who want to stretch and do other tasks for their libraries.
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