Truckee Library is overbooked: seeks funds to expand
It’s 10 a.m. and Lauri Ferguson’s day at the Truckee Library is just beginning.
As she unlocks the front door, there’s already a small line that has gathered to use the library’s two Internet computers. Because there simply aren’t enough hours in the day, it’s likely that some of them will have to be turned away.
Meanwhile, Ferguson, the branch librarian, is shuffling around looking for an older book that’s been tucked away in storage because the shelves simply can’t hold any books — much less the rooms hold any more shelves.
“We’re just bursting at the seams in here,” said Pam McAdoo, member of the Truckee Friends of the Library, a local organization that supports the branch. “There’s no more room for books, there’s not enough places for people to sit. We’ve simply outgrown this facility.”
According to Ferguson, a town the size of Truckee needs at least a 10,000 square foot facility.
“We’re just under 4,000 square feet,” Ferguson said as she carefully maneuvered through a tight corridor of non-fiction.
Years of Struggle
The Truckee Library has been an endangered species for much of its existence, since it first opened its doors in 1970.
Especially in the early days, finding a permanent home for the library was always problematic. Before moving to its current location on Levone Avenue behind the sheriff’s office in 1976, the branch found shelter in the old Truckee jail, a Methodist church and an old grammar school building, to name a few homes.
In 1983, the library was able to expand its services by adding a children’s corner and reference room, thanks to the help of a federal grant.
Thing would remain rocky for the little branch, however.
“Four years ago, we were really in trouble when major state funding cutbacks for libraries left us without a book budget or a librarian,” McAdoo said.
With the help of the Friends of the Library and Measure B, an eight-tenths of a percent county sales tax increase that gets divided proportionally between Nevada County’s three libraries, the Truckee branch is “alive and well today,” according to McAdoo.
“We’ve been able to hire two wonderful librarians, have a good purchasing budget for books, great programs and Internet access,” she said. “The issue now is really about space.”
Besides being unable to house any more books, Ferguson points to the need for more space for the library’s many programs, particularly the children’s programs like the weekly story times, which attract as many as 300 young listeners per month.
“We’d also love to have some kind of computer lab for the 1,000-plus people that use our Internet facilities each month,” Ferguson said. “We’d love to be able to have more computers for people, perhaps even be able to offer courses on using the Internet.”
McAdoo said the library also needs a quiet, private area for its adult literacy tutoring program and a separate room for children’s programs.
“We get a lot of complaints for older people who go to the library to try and read and can’t because of the noise from the children’s area,” McAdoo said. “The problem is that the current area has no walls or doors since it’s basically just a corner fenced in by bookshelves.”
Expansion or relocation?
In light of the Truckee Library’s uncomfortably cramped state, McAdoo, Ferguson and several other members of the county have begun looking for solutions to their space issues. One such option is expanding or adding onto the current facility.
“For now, I’m at least pushing for a storage bin for obscure, less circulated books,” Ferguson said. “I can’t get newer books that people want on the shelves because there’s simply no more room. A storage bin would free up some space for newer books, yet people could still request these books and we could retrieve it from storage for them.”
Ferguson said the library has also been exploring the possibility of a new location for several years.
“I’ve had a lot of parents confront me over the years about having the library located near the sheriff’s department and courthouse,” she said. “They want to know why there’s inmates walking through our parking lot and some people are deeply concerned about it.”
Whatever option the library chooses, it won’t be able to allocate funds from Measure B for the project.
“Under the specifics of this particular measure, money cannot be used for capital expenditures,” Ferguson said. “This leaves Proposition 14 as our next glimmer of hope.”
Proposition 14, which was passed in March of 2000, matches state funds for library facility expansion and improvements. The state will provide funds for 65 percent of a project, while the county will have to come up with the additional 35 percent.
To help with the extensive three-part application process, the Friends of the Library have enlisted the help of the Nevada County Librarian, Francisco Pinneli.
“Right now, we’re in the process of doing our homework for the project, studying all of our options,” Pinneli said. “A clear analysis of community needs has to be done before we can apply for the funds.”
Pinneli said he hopes to meet the March 2003 application deadline.
McAdoo is concerned about the branch’s shot at funding because they will be competing against their sister branch in Grass Valley.
“I’m worried that the state will be reluctant to allocate funds to two branches in the same county,” she said. “Truckee has always been neglected because we’re so isolated out here in relation to the rest of the county.”
Pinneli said that shouldn’t be an issue.
“Each application for funding is judged on its own unique value, therefore, we shouldn’t be concerned that Grass Valley’s application is going to affect Truckee’s chances,” Pinneli said.
Nonetheless, he said competition for Proposition 14 funds is likely to be fierce.
“The bond is for $350 million, however, the needs assessment for state libraries came up with $2 billion,” he said.
Another concerned public figure that’s been working with the library is Nevada County District 5 Supervisor Barbara Green.
“There’s all of that Proposition 14 money available, just sitting there on the table, and we really want to utilize that money,” she said. “I’m determined that we will find a solution to our library’s problems. I know we will find one.”
Green will be meeting with Pinneli and others on Feb. 22 to discuss the branch’s fate.
Measure B will also be a major issue for the library this year, as it will go up for approval again in the November elections.
“We’re really anxious to have [the measure] pass, because who knows what will happen if we don’t receive that money anymore,” Ferguson said. “I don’t want things to go back to things the way they were before.”