Council moves forward with plans for local library control | SierraSun.com

Council moves forward with plans for local library control

Hannah Jones
hjones@sierrasun.com

The vision of a town-operated library is one step closer to reality as Truckee Town Council voted on Tuesday to move forward with discussions and negotiations to transfer control from the county over to Truckee.

"Taking on library control is one more step in the evolution of our town," said Vice Mayor David Tirman. "But it has to make sense financially."

Taking over the library would not come without risks. In a presentation, Hilary Hobbs, management analyst for the Town of Truckee, said that 90 percent of library funding comes from Measure A sales tax revenue.

If the town were to take over control this would create an even greater vulnerability in the event of an economic downturn. Hobbs' analysis also reported that the library's expenses would escalate faster than revenue over a five-year period if the economy were to stay the same.

In a written statement, Mayor Carolyn Wallace Dee said she's "very concerned about taking over the library and concerned the county will not deliver proportionate funds."

She questioned whether the existing funds are guaranteed to stay consistent.

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"If we're not successful we might end up with no library in the end," her statement read.

Currently the library is housed in a 5,000-square-foot building. With town control, patrons of the library hope Truckee will be able to construct a newer, bigger facility that can better cater to the community. Nevada County does not have any plans for improvements in the Truckee library in its long-term plan.

In a presentation, Louise Zabriskie, President of Friends of the Truckee Library, outlined the benefits of town control including a town hired library director, a library advisory council and improved financial transparency and accountability.

With this change she said the library would be better equipped to directly engage the community and meet its needs. Zabriskie offered a list of immediate improvements including technology classes for all, the hiring of a bilingual staff, after school homework clubs and tutoring, and a greater collection of books.

More than 10 people, including students of Tahoe Truckee Unified School District, voiced their opinions concerning the library at the council meeting, all in support for town control.

Rebecca Anderson, Truckee resident and English as a second language tutor, spoke of the challenges presented in tutoring at the library, as there is often not enough space and there are limited activities and books available for her son when he is there with her.

"We need a beautiful, modern place filled with books to gather and support each other in learning," said Truckee resident Kathleen Gauthier. "Our library should at least be as good as our gorgeous animal shelter."

In December the town contracted Management Partners consulting firm to complete a library management feasibility study. The study presented three options: transfer management to the town, keep it the same or allow the town to provide direct library services to the public while the county continues to run the library back-of-house.

If Truckee were to take over operation, Truckee Library would technically have to remain part of the Nevada County Community Library system in order to still receive funding under Measure A.

However, the library would still be able to operate independently if a contract is established between the town and the county to act as a transfer of funds that the county receives from Measure A. By overseeing operation of the library, the town will have control over all policies, budget decisions, staffing, collections, services and back-of-house functions.

The consultant study recommended the library should stay under county control. Library staff recommended "supporting development of a new expanded facility is a more compelling opportunity, but a serious programmatic and financial commitment."

At the May 8 council meeting Friends of the Truckee Library requested additional time to review the feasibility study and discuss the matter in the future.

On Tuesday, Hobbs said the original analysis of the benefits of a town-run library presented on May 8 had not changed.

In June of 2016, the Nevada County Executive Office submitted a letter to the town manager asking the town to explore the option and feasibility of taking over Truckee library services. The council expressed willingness to consider the change in January 2017, as long as the town had adequate funding to support it and the council was sure it would improve the current services offered.

This transition has been a vision of the library since 2010 when Friends of the Truckee Library engaged a consulting firm to evaluate feasibility of town operation.

With the council's decision they are now tasked with appointing a team of town staff and council members to make negotiations with the county starting with financial arrangements, then reporting back with a work plan.

Hannah Jones is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at 530-550-2652 or hjones@sierrasun.com.