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5 local libraries to close under proposed plan; 4 in Grays Harbor, 1 in Pacific County

Originally posted September 27, 2018

5 local Timberland Regional Library locations could close as part of a Proposed Capital Facilities Plan.

In a proposed plan from Timberland Regional Library, multiple changes could come to the Grays Harbor and Pacific County library system. They say that a “reimagined library” could be coming to the region after TRL has “reached the point where revenues are not keeping up with expenditures”.

In an executive summary, TRL states that changes are needed.

“After 50 years, Timberland Regional Library is poised to reimagine what library service looks like in the future. We have overhauled our budget and we have invested in efforts to understand how people are using our services. The TRL Board of Trustees has requested a Capital Facilities proposal that looks holistically at the organization and plans for a sustainable future.”

They add that the way people use libraries is changing, and the system needs to adjust to accommodate these changes.

“Do we face challenges? Yes. Some challenges are a stark reality. Revenue does not increase as fast as expenditures. Other challenges will be unexpected (when TRL formed in 1968, no one predicted how library work would be transformed by the World Wide Web and the Internet).“

In budget and use forecasts, they say that while Thurston and Mason counties will likely see some growth in their local user base, projections for Grays Harbor and Pacific counties show little to no population growth.

Proposed changes include a number of closures, mergers, and enhancements in each region TRL serves.

Regional changes include adding LibraryExpress locations, described as “coffee-stand style service” instead of an entire building that would allow people to pick up and return books or park and take advantage of 24/7 WiFi, the use of “Open+ Expanded Access” that would allow patrons to use services in the remaining locations without staff being on-hand, possibly doubling their hours, or “Remote Lockers” at various sites that could be used as a drop-off/pick-up for books and other items ordered through the libraries, “Mobile Services” creating a series of travelling library vehicles, and other options.

In Grays Harbor, the proposed plan would close the Hoquiam, Montesano, Oakville, and Amanda Park libraries and merge services with other facilities. This could include adding LibraryExpress or Remote Lockers in their place.

TRL says that with changes over the last 20 years, they have become over-staffed, and this presents a challenge.

“With medical costs increasing an average of ten percent per year and adding to that employee Union-negotiated COLAs, expenditures are outpacing revenues and will continue to do so in coming years. In general, annual revenue increases approximately $400,000 while salaries and benefits increase on average $500,000. Between 2002 and 2009, prior Administration approved an additional 42 FTE, an unsustainable amount given the above-mentioned limit to annual increases in property taxes. TRL plans to account and readjust the amount of FTE by tactically leaving positions unfilled due to retirement or attrition.

While they expect to adjust staffing, they are also planning for improvements at local sites,

“…as we go forward, we need to put more money towards planning for buildings repairs and maintenance as well as furniture replacements for all buildings. If we were to make no changes, TRL anticipates a deficit approximating $700,000 for 2019 and 2020. Simply maintaining services in this environment requires looking for efficiency and cost-saving measures. Expanding services, providing services to geographically-distributed populations, and reaching those most in need of library services requires greater innovations that reimagine what a library looks like today.”

For Aberdeen, they say that the site “already operates essentially as a full-service hub location for West Grays Harbor” and it could grow to provide a range of services. The plan says that the Hoquiam library could combine, consolidating services with Aberdeen, and allow for an increase in services “such as programming and outreach” due to a reduction in staffing needs. Amanda Park is also slated for closure and sale, with their needs being met out of the Aberdeen hub.

The Hoquiam library is currently undergoing the latest in a number of upgrades and repairs, and TRL notes this.

“The Hoquiam library, though historic, is faced with numerous maintenance issues. The City of Hoquiam has undertaken a renovation project to address many of the structural problems, including repairs to the roof, the exterior of the building, mold mitigation, new lighting, carpet replacement, paint, and many other issues. They’ve funded this project through a combination of City, State, and donations. Despite the welcome attention from the City of Hoquiam, half the building is more than 100 years old, and the expanded section is nearly 30 years old. It was not built with current electrical and data needs in mind, nor designed to support large collections of material on steel shelving. The elevation of the lower level leads to potential issues with flooding. Accessibility is also a challenge with a split-level lower floor and a two-story library reliant on an aging elevator.”

The Montesano library would be up for closure and consolidation with Elma, creating an East Grays Harbor hub, utilizing funds from the sale of the Montesano building to begin construction of a larger facility that could handle the needs of the surrounding area. The Oakville library could also close, consolidating services between Elma and Centralia, and vacating this location.

The South Bend library is the only Pacific County library slated for a closure as they would combine with Raymond and vacate their building. TRL states that the duplication between Raymond and South Bend is unneeded, and the historic Carnegie library “is currently closed due to an overabundance of caution regarding lead paint, mold, and asbestos in the building”.

“The 105-year-old library facility faces significant structural, accessibility, and safety challenges. Additionally, it is functionally limited, with predominantly built-in shelving, and a lack of spaces for the public, including the lack of a community meeting space. The lift installed to provide an alternative to the steep front stairs frequently malfunctions and requires servicing and, when functioning, the heavy outer door is difficult to open for someone with disabilities. A recent facility review by Clear Risk Solutions identified the following issues:

  • Mold growing in the on the walls and on the ceiling in the basement. This is a large concern for the health and safety of the library personnel and patrons visiting the library.

  • Multiple floor joists that are rotten and falling apart. This is a concern for the structural integrity of the building.

  • Improper drainage of water onto and around the building resulting in damage to the exterior of the building, settling of concrete pads around the lift door and HVAC system, and mold growth.

  • Separation of part of the stairway leading up to the building.

  • Usage of extension cords as a permanent power source.

There is no preventative maintenance plan on file with the City of South Bend. The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries has been notified of the building issues, have made a visit complete with mold, lead, and asbestos testing, and will complete a report for this location.”

Combining some services between Ocean Park and Ilwaco are also suggested, but not included in full mergers.

In the place of a full library in Hoquiam, Montesano, Oakville, Amanda Park, and South Bend they suggest that a Library Express, Remote Lockers, or mobile service may be able to provide limited resources to the areas for residents who cannot reach a hub.

While the plan proposes some drastic changes to the local libraries, TRL says that they hope residents can bear with them as they work through options.

“We ask you to be courageous and open to new ideas and change. We recognize there are a lot of questions and concerns – be prepared to live with ambiguity.”

 

Timberland Regional Library: Capital Facilities Plan – Proposal

 

 

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