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Library system mulls another try

The Kitsap Regional Library Board of Directors will meet later this month to decide its strategy following the defeat in May of a levy lift that would have provided financing for the next several years.

One of the options is to approach the voters again with a modified levy lift proposal in November.

“If we go out again, we will have to change the message,” said KRL Director Jill Jean. “And we will have to change the amount. A lot of people were concerned that we made too great of a leap in the increase of our funding.”

The original levy lift, defeated on May 8, would have increased the property allocation from .33 cents to .48 cents per $1,000. This translated to a $48 increase in property taxes for each $100,000 of assessed value.

The decision to go back to the voters hasn’t yet been made, but Jean said an increase would probably range between .38 and .42.

One way to cut the budget projections is to eliminate any expansion plans, since space increase across the board was a key part of the original proposal.

“Everyone wants to expand,” Jill said. “They’re looking for larger facilities and stronger libraries. But we will need to focus what we ask for, take the expansion out of the mix and deal with that later.”

Decreasing hours of operation is the most obvious cost-cutting measure. A more immediate belt-tightnening policy was implemented on July 1 with a revision of the system’s borrowing policies.

As a result, all library videos, films, and DVDs will be limited to a one-week borrowing time, library patrons will be limited to having no more than 100 library items checked out and 50 on hold, and they cannot submit more than five purchase requests in one week.

“This policy allows us to get better use of the collection,” Jean said. “If you shorten the circulation times, the collection will be more available for everyone. So we get a better return in investment.”

Additionally, KRL will be installing automatic-checkout machines, similar to those available in other regional libraries. Here, patrons scan their library cards and the books, completing the checkout process without a librarian’s involvement.

“Some people will resist this,” Jean said. “But we’ve found that most of them will take to it really quickly. It’s a huge convenience and will free up librarians to help people out in the stacks.”

The libraries have already discontinued the policy of stamping due dates on books, instead providing a receipt that lists the books checked out as well as their due dates.

Jean said this will save the library about $5,000 per year in sticker costs, in addition to the labor required to attach them to the book.

Any customer who really wants to have his or her book stamped will be accommodated.

In recent years, similar policy changes have placed limitations on library Internet usage, meeting room reservations and book club collection use. In 2004, the library system began limiting library users to 60 minutes of Internet access per day.

The Internet restriction applied sys-temwide, so users of multiple library lo-cations are still limited to just 60 minutes in any one day, regardless of the number of library locations they visit.

After the most recent vote some voters indicated that the library’s providing access to pornography was the reason they voted against the funding. Jean said this should not be an issue. Citing KRL’s full compliance with the Child Online Protection Act, she said that all machines in the children’s section are fully filtered.

Additionally, anyone with a children’s library card will only have access to filtered material regardless of the terminal’s location.

Adult library cards also call up filtered content, but card users can change the default position to allow them access to the unfiltered Internet, so all library patrons are in control of their own inline destiny.

As for the possibility that a child may appropriate a parent’s library card, Jean conceded, “We can’t police everybody.”

Expansion of facilities is one item targeted for deletion in any future levy request.

Timing is also a major consideration. If the measure is offered in November 2007, it will share ballot space with municipal elections, which could work in the library’s favor.

If they wait until November 2008 it will compete with the presidential election, and suffer from the prevailing media clatter.

Some voters will feel the last vote was decisive, and the libraries should not ask again. Jean acknowledges this, along with a general resistance to new taxes, but feels that refocusing the message will make it clearer and win voter approval.

And by November, voters will have recovered from the tax levied by the Port of Bremerton (and perhaps already have replaced those who imposed that fee).

“The tax structure is very difficult,” Jean said. “It tends to tax the people who can least afford it. After the port’s tax we were all painted with the same brush, and people were surprised.”

Jean said KRL is always interested in public input, about the possibility of a second levy or any other issues. To contact her write director@krl.org.

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