Beyond books, library serves community needs

Published on Wed, Oct 14, 2009 by Debby Farmer

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The number 7,750 is an impressive number, especially when it signifies the number of books and chapters read during the summer by our community’s youngest members. Babies cooed while their mothers read, toddlers tucked in for the night listened to bedtime stories, older siblings read to younger, tentative readers tackled their first chapter books. Each one earned great prizes while embracing the importance of literacy, whether they realized it or not.

In light of this year’s slow economy, the Friends of the Library decided to give local businesses a break and not request donations for Summer Reading Club.

Through book sales and other fundraising efforts, they were able to keep the prize coffers full even with record breaking participation. The teen club received more reviews, by more teens, and with more guys participating than ever before. While adult summer reading reviews declined from last year, Blaine readers still captured top honors by outnumbering every branch in number of reviews.

The library has switched gears and now is into the fall mode with class visits, after school programs and Whatcomics, a celebration of comic book art for middle and high school students. Adult book discussion groups, fly-tying workshops, and Wii nights reflect the scope of programming available at the library. The public internet stations are in constant use with job-seekers, out-of-towners and others who cannot afford home internet service. Laptop users enjoy the high-speed wireless service and frequently occupy the tables throughout the library. Circulation of library materials continues to rise as do the number of new cardholders.

From 2002 to 2008, Blaine Library checked out over 66 percent more items. During this same time, it lived with yearly revenue increases of approximately 1 percent. According to Washington state law, public libraries are entitled to levy up to 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation of property. Today, that number is .338 cents, and continues to decline. Even with streamlined operations and staffing freezes, the point has been reached at which the library can no longer maintain current levels of service. For this reason, the Whatcom County Library System is going to the voters with Proposition 1, to ask for a levy lid lift, a restoration of the levy rate from .338 to 44 cents. It has been 29 years since the library system last requested a levy rate increase, and for the owner of a $250,000 home, it would translate into an additional $25 per year. If the voters decide against Proposition 1, however, the result will most likely be a Friday closure of all branches of the Whatcom County Library System.

The staff of the Blaine Library will continue to the best of its ability to provide quality service to its community regardless of the election outcome. Your understanding will be appreciated as we navigate these uncertain times. You might consider becoming a Friend of the Library, a literacy tutor or a reader to a nursing home resident - or drop off donations for the Blaine Food Bank during any of the library’s 56 open hours. By partnering together, we’ll help our local folks in need and keep the Blaine community spirit alive.