Library Fees Are Making Kids Shelve Reading Children Caught In Middle Of City, County Turf War
The turf battle between Spokane city and county libraries is hurting kids on both sides of the city limits, teachers say.
“One of our goals as educators is … to generate a love of reading,” staff from Moran Prairie Elementary wrote in a letter to the Spokane Public Library. “Without the ability to use the city library, our students will be deprived of a means of enhancing their education.”
City libraries in January started charging non-residents for library cards. The fee, which ranges from $40 to $100 a year depending on services, was imposed because nonresidents do not pay taxes to the libraries.
In response, county libraries in March will begin charging $55 for cards issued to Spokane city residents. City residents don’t pay taxes to the county library district.
The policies are making life tough in schools that include students from both sides of the city limits.
About a third of Moran Prairie students live in unincorporated areas of the South Hill. Unless they pay for a card, those students can’t check out books when their classes take field trips to nearby Manito Library.
Those non-city students can use the county libraries in the Valley. They can use the Manito Library without checking out materials. Or they can use the school library.
“An elementary school library isn’t adequate for doing research,” said Moran Prairie principal Marilyn Highberg.
Non-resident students aren’t the only ones hurt by the policy. Moran Prairie and three other District 81 schools no longer qualify for classroom cards, which teachers use to borrow materials for in-class use. The four schools are outside the city limits.
The problem is reversed in the Mead School District. Shiloh Hills Elementary is in Spokane, and many of its students live inside the city limits. But the closest library is in the county and will be off-limits to nonpaying city residents starting next month.
“Our students can walk to the library or ride bikes or even take the city bus,” Barbara Sanford, the Shiloh Hills librarian, wrote to the county library board. “But in the future, they will be totally reliant upon parents or other adults to get them to a library in another area of town.”
Four other Mead schools are outside the city limits but have some students from the city.
Spokane County freeholders think they have the solution to library fees. They’d do away with the boundaries between the two systems.
Freeholders initially left libraries out of their proposal to consolidate city and county governments. The group rewrote its proposal, and included libraries, shortly after the city announced it would begin charging for cards.
Under the freeholders’ proposal, the consolidated city-county government would have two years to merge the libraries. That means the merger wouldn’t happen until 1997 or 1998, and then only if voters approve consolidation this fall.
Pam Bale wants something done now.
“To be real honest, I could afford to pay the $40 fee to get them a card. But I know there are other kids here who couldn’t afford that money,” said Bale, who lives outside the city limits on the South Hill and sends her children to District 81 schools.
“I don’t think these kids should have to pay a dime to use any library.”