Kitsap library system enriches lives

As futurist Alvin Toffler once wrote, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”

With technology and globalization changing the world in which we live, work and play, the mission of the Kitsap Regional Library — to serve the community as a center for lifelong learning and a steward of access to stories, information, and knowledge — is more relevant than ever.

Access to information and knowledge — this is critical to building communities that not only survive but thrive during times of crises like those we are facing today.

Consequently, as you consider the Kitsap Regional Library levy proposal, we encourage you to consider it through a 21st century lens.

Through this lens, one sees Kitsap Regional Library as a system, not competing community libraries.

While each community library adds to the overall value of the immediate community it serves, access to information and knowledge is enhanced by the improvements at each library in the system.

Let’s first look at the improvements across the system.

The KRL levy proposal would generate the funds needed to keep libraries open in a time of record use by residents, to purchase more materials at a time when circulation is at record levels, and to support children and teen programs that are serving record numbers of Kitsap young people.

Every library will get more operating support under this levy proposal to stay open longer hours, to offer more materials, to upgrade computers used by the public, to link to the Internet with faster connections, and to employ needed staff, who assist library users in a variety of ways. 

The KRL levy proposal also addresses facility needs. Since facilities are located in specific communities, one might tend to look at the facilities plan from a competitive rather than a collaborative perspective.

On the surface, it may appear that Kingston and Silverdale are getting more from the levy than South Kitsap. One fact that must be considered is that county taxpayers own the Kingston and Silverdale library facilities.

Consequently, it is the responsibility of taxpayers countywide to support needed improvements at those libraries.

Since the replacement libraries in Kingston and Silverdale will be larger than the existing buildings, access for all patrons will be enhanced.

The larger facilities will add significantly to KRL’s capacity for books and other materials. More items will be available to library users, even those who never visit the new library branches.

A library user in South Kitsap will be more likely to find the book they are looking for, with a shorter wait time, if these two new facilities are built.

In addition, many South Kitsap residents do use the Silverdale library – according to a KRL survey last year, about 25 percent of Port Orchard patrons and about 13 percent of Manchester patrons have used the Silverdale library.

KRL is also working closely with the Kitsap County Genealogical Society to establish a genealogical research center that will serve the entire county in the new Silverdale branch library.

That enhanced research center is possible only because of the increase in size proposed for the Silverdale branch.

To fulfill its mission, KRL works collaboratively with the seven entities who own the buildings in which branches are located, including the city of Port Orchard and the Manchester Friends of the Library.

In preparing the levy proposal, KRL asked every building owner to identify future capital needs of their buildings.

Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola responded with a request for $3 million for the new Port Orchard library.

While, historically Port Orchard and other Kitsap cities have been responsible for providing and maintaining buildings for library branches within their boundaries, KRL responded to the mayor’s request with a plan to provide the $3 million requested.

Consequently, KRL’s proposal offers the city exactly what the mayor defined as Port Orchard’s capital need. 

KRL’s financial support of a new Port Orchard library would be a significant break from historic practice, but it supports the system perspective that all libraries serve not only their local community but the greater community of Kitsap County.

KRL is a library system providing access and serving citizens across the county.

Taxpayers in the county share the burden of the system’s needs and the taxes you pay support an entire library system.

In return, the system operates nine branch libraries in a way that most enhances total library service.

We hope you will support the Kitsap Regional Library levy proposal so that library facilities can continue to serve as community centers for lifelong learning well into the 21st century.

Kim Abel is the former mayor of Port Orchard; Bev Cheney is the former superintendent of the South Kitsap School District. They serve as as co-chairs of the South Kitsap Vote YES for Kitsap Libraries committee.

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