While many went to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Saturday, quite a few found time to swing by the East Side Library Branch for the Access Project kickoff party.
On Saturday, East Side Library patrons could get part of their fines forgiven – up to $10 – with another $10 paid for by donors.
Access Project had raised $1,100 before Saturday, and received another $430 in donations on the day of the party.
More than 500 people showed up to settle their tallies with the library, get library cards and enjoy live music and drawings. On a normal Saturday the library has about 170 visitors.
“Many came simply to get a library card,” said Jennifer Hansen, who’s with Neighborhoods Matter, a program coordinated by the Spokane Regional Health District and one of the organizations involved in saving the library by increasing its usage. “Our next step will be to get more volunteers signed up and to listen to their ideas.” A total of 13 new cards were issued on Saturday.
The East Side branch of the Spokane Public Library was facing closure last year, as was the Indian Trail Library, because Spokane Public Library had to make budget cuts. These are the branches with the lowest use.
The East Side Library Branch Access Project got started because the branch is owed $26,177 in outstanding fines within the 99202 ZIP code. Of that, $5,854 is owed on juvenile cards. A library card is blocked if there is more than $10 in fines on it, and children of parents or guardians with blocked cards can’t open their own cards. The East Side Library Branch is owed another $34,613 for lost materials – $6,557 of that is owed on juvenile cards.
On Saturday, just $51.50 of donated money was spent on covering fines, but that didn’t curb Hansen’s excitement.
“There was a line of kids when we got here. I am definitely happy with the turnout,” Hansen said.
Among visitors were many neighborhood activists as well as Mayor Mary Verner and Library Director Pat Partovi.
Crystal Cooper, a neighbor and a parent, said she’s been going to the library as frequently as possible.
“I’ve been bringing my boys to sign in and to get books,” said Cooper. “We use the library a lot and they love getting books here. Lately, we’ve been going every day just to check in.”
Invitations were sent home with students at Sheridan and Franklin elementary schools, the two main feeder schools to the East Side Library Branch.
Heather Wallace lives in the neighborhood and volunteers on the Neighborhood Matters governance council. She said helping increase the use of the neighborhood library really resonated with her.
“There are not a ton of resources in this neighborhood, so the library is something to build on,” Wallace said. “This is not about paying off a few fines. This is about long-term sustainability and the neighborhood taking ownership and helping the library stay open.”