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Leaving KC Library System is ‘not in our best interests’
Should there be a ballot issue to withdraw from KCLS and create our own library, as suggested by a forum article in the July 23 issue of the Mercer Island Reporter, I strongly urge all Mercer Island residents to vote NO.
The forum article stated “we would have the same access to the nationwide collection of books that we now have.” That is simply not true. KCLS has won awards as one of the best and busiest library systems in the country and has over 4 million materials that are available to anyone served by the system. Unlike some libraries, that allow anyone to get a library card, KCLS only gives cards to people residing within a city served by them, so if we remove ourselves from KCLS, we lose access to their materials both on Mercer Island and at any of their branches. The forum article implied we could still have access through inter-library loans, however this is highly inefficient. I have used an inter-library loan twice when Seattle had something I wanted that KCLS did not. Once I never got the item, and the second time it took months because the loaning library will not loan it while patrons in their own system have a request for it.
Money: The forum article states that we “were taxed $4.4 million for KCL library services and KCLS spent less than half of this on Mercer Island.” No explanation of where these figures come from. My understanding is that the figure about how much we received, counts only direct money given specifically to Mercer Island and does not include multiple copies of books housed outside our own collection but available to us, or e-books. Nor does it include expenses and services like the Library2Go vans, mobile learning labs, the traveling library center, the Words on Wheels program, or the TechLab which visit retirement centers, childcare programs, and which provide other services to our community and to others within their system.
Library Closure: The article states: “We would prevent closure of our library for up to a year.”
While it is true that the library building will be closed during the remodel, it is also true that KCLS will be opening a smaller facility on Mercer Island, with similar hours to now, with some computers and where patrons can order, pick up or return books. While inconvenient, it is not as though we will be unable to check out books on the island, which is implied by the article.
Closure is more likely if we vote to form our own library and we would have no service at all while we go through the process of purchasing the current building from KCLS (at market prices), do renovations, purchase new materials and hire staff.
In another article in the same issue of the Reporter, the City Council did vote to establish a library advisory board to work with KCLS and to better improve communication between our community and KCLS. This, hopefully, will lead to a better dialogue and some improvements to their plan (they have already made many changes to their original plan based on City Council Library Advisory Board meetings). To disband from KCLS totally and form our own little library system is NOT in the best interests of our community.