March 8, 2014 in Washington Voices

Front Porch: Library bond will benefit community

By The Spokesman-Review
 
At a glance

Ballots will be mailed April 2 and 3 for the April 22 election. Ballots may be returned by mail (with a first-class stamp) or to an election drop box at any public library, the county Elections Office or to a voter service center on election day.

It’s time to update our Spokane Valley library system. Really, really time.

The current library on Main Avenue has insufficient space for materials, meetings and parking. Opportunities are continually lost because the small, outdated building can’t cope with 2014 needs.

On April 22 we’ll be voting on a two-part library bond to provide a new 30,000 square foot main library on Sprague Avenue next to Balfour Park across from University City, to be completed in 2016, and also a new 10,000 square foot branch on Conklin Road and 6,000 square foot Argonne branch expansion, to be completed in 2017. You can find an informative brochure on the bond at the library; it’s also online at www.scld.org/ about/2014-bond.

Perhaps you don’t use the library and wonder why you should vote for the bond.

Well, this isn’t your grandparents’ library.

Today’s library is a busy multimedia center for people of every age and interest. Lively conversation takes place in all corners as friends and strangers talk about books, interests and lives.

“The library really is a community gathering space,” says Sonia Gustafson, Managing Librarian. “We have groups of all kinds – Cub Scouts, MOPs (Mothers of Preschoolers), Homeowners’ Associations, after-school tutoring, classmates working on school projects, scrapbooking club, chess club, etc. – using our library.”

When Richard lost his 28-year job in a company downsizing in December, we joined the ranks of the unemployed in a tough economy, and he’s using digital and hardcopy library resources in his job search. Library books and magazines got me through cancer last year and will do so again through an upcoming spinal fusion surgery.

Library services have become incredibly sophisticated. Click on “Digital Library” at www.scld.org and consider the astounding selection of resources you can download on your tablet, smartphone, laptop or computer – e-books, audiobooks, magazines, music, movies, TV shows, reference tools, online tutors, mutual fund reports and more. Microsoft IT Academy offers free access to its online e-learning program for technology training at all levels. Forget you checked something out? Digital items conveniently return and delete automatically.

So with the abundant online resources, why do we need new physical libraries? Good question. The current library, meeting rooms and parking are topped out and can’t be expanded. Customers don’t have direct access to many materials, because the library has no room for them in the main areas. Library book sales can’t handle the hordes of enthusiastic customers. With the economy still depressed, library use has rocketed and the small number of public computers are overwhelmed. Last year more than 900 people a day tried to fit in 66 parking spaces and find a corner in the cramped facility, and more than 14,000 people attended programs. Students can always be found there and children’s programs are thriving. Whenever I go to the library it’s busy, and it’s tough to find parking.

The new and expanded facilities will have bigger meeting rooms for library, community, afterschool and children’s programs, as well as smaller conference rooms, study spaces and more desperately needed public computers, and will finally have enough room for thousands of books and other materials. The Teen/Young Adult section alone needs far more space, as the genre is extremely popular and more teens are reading than ever. Finally, all areas of Spokane Valley will have easy access to neighborhood libraries to which they can walk or ride bikes.

And don’t forget that companies seriously consider libraries along with schools and other amenities when choosing a city in which to open businesses. They want their families and employees to enjoy excellent services.

Maybe you think, OK, I guess I can see the need. But what’s the cost?

You might be very surprised. Right now Valley citizens pay 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. The bond is for $22 million, a lump sum that seems intimidating. However, it breaks down to an extra 14 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value for 20 years. In 2014, this would be around $14 for a $100,000 home and around $21 for a $150,000 home. Now that’s a phenomenal value.

It’s way past time for updating our library facilities.

Please vote yes on the bonds, for 21st century libraries we can be proud of.

You can reach Deborah Chan at tabbytoes@comcast.net. Previous columns are available at spokesman.com/ columnists/.


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