Library District Tries Again Revived County Bond Proposal Would Put New Branches In Deer Park, Airway Heights
This might not seem like a good time for the Spokane County Library District to push a $7.66 million bond proposal.
In the middle of winter, county library directors are placing the same proposal before the county’s tight-fisted voters that was shot down in September.
Despite the chilly reception five months ago, bond backers are upbeat about Tuesday’s special election.
Timing is everything, said Spokane County Library Director Mike Wirt.
“September is a hard time to have an election. People are in the end-of-summer mode, with school just starting. We think we can explain our issues better this time,” said Wirt.
Spokane city residents don’t vote on the county library proposal. Area school districts and fire districts will hold elections the same day.
The September vote was close enough that library trustees chose to submit it again with no changes. It would build two new libraries, add computer technology throughout the county, and spend $2 million for new books, records and tapes at all nine branches.
No organized opposition has been mounted against the proposal. Then again, there was no organized opposition last time and it still lost.
Wirt and campaign supporters see signs that the result might be different this time around:
A lower turnout requirement. Last fall, the bond measure needed more than 29,000 voters casting ballots to validate the election. Only about 23,000 people voted.
For this election, the district needs only 20,668 ballots cast. It also needs 60 percent approval - it got 56 percent last time.
Solid support in key areas. September’s bond proposal drew strong support in the Deer Park and Airway Heights areas, where new libraries would be built.
More aggressive campaigning. “We’re mailing out 25,000 oversized postcards in those precincts that had 50 percent or higher approval in September,” said Wirt.
A citizens’ committee raised the money for that effort, since the district cannot legally campaign for the bond.
No mailings are going to precincts where residents voted against the bond, he said.
“You want to remind the people who liked you last time to vote again. You don’t want to remind those who didn’t support you the last time,” Wirt said.
This campaign, supporters are spending about $8,000 - including about $5,000 for the mailings. Last September, they spent about $6,500.
If approved, the major impact would be the new libraries in two fast-growing communities where patrons have had to endure cramped, makeshift spaces, supporters say.
Improvements to the other outlying libraries will make them better-equipped, said Library District Trustee Vick Myers-Canfield. The Fairfield branch, for instance, would get its first public restrooms.
The bond would also set aside $2.14 million to equip the libraries with computers for easier information searching, and to allow users to dial into the collection from homes.
“Libraries should be doing that, helping everyone have free access to the information that’s out there,” said Myers-Canfield.
The bond would place about 210 new computer terminals in the nine libraries. It would pay for 45 computers to be used in middle schools and high schools throughout the library district, plus Moran Prairie and Mullan Road elementary schools.
In the past few months, Myers-Canfield and other supporters have taken their pitch to dozens of service groups.
At nearly every meeting, two questions were raised:
Will the new technology match the system Spokane city librarians installed in 1994, and will the two systems ever merge into a unified, free-exchange system such as residents enjoyed until two years ago?
To the first, Wirt says: “We’ll offer similar capabilities” in letting users browse the Internet, find articles in massive magazine indexes or track down reference material.
For the second question, the answer is trickier, he said.
“If the bond passes, we’ll have the technical possibility of working together. But at the policy level, that would depend on what the two library boards decide to do,” he said.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: Bucks for books
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: SPECIAL ELECTION On Tuesday voters will decide elections for area school and fire districts in addition to the county library bond.
This sidebar appeared with the story: SPECIAL ELECTION On Tuesday voters will decide elections for area school and fire districts in addition to the county library bond.