Opinion

A new library for Arlington?

When we moved the books into the current Arlington Library in 1981, the world, and Arlington, was a different place. About 3,200 people lived in the city limits, there were two computers in the library (catalog access only) and approximately 30,000 books. Internet access in libraries was still several years in the future,

A lot has changed in the last 27 years.

Since first opening, the current Arlington Library has seen a steady increase in the demand for library service. For example, since 2000 library check-outs have increased by 33 percent; last year, there were nearly 139,000 visits to the Arlington library; more than 27,000 incorporated and unincorporated Arlington area residents have library cards.

On May 20, residents of the Arlington School District will vote on two measures that, if approved, will mean a new library for the Arlington community. The first measure asks residents to form a library capital facility area, which is a special taxing district formed for the exclusive purpose of funding a new library building. The second measure is an $8.8 million bond to pay for the new library.

The term library capital facility area is probably familiar to many of you. It's not the first time Arlington residents have voted to form an LCFA. Library capital facility area legislation, which was approved by the state legislature in mid-1990s, spreads the cost of a new library throughout a library's service area, rather than just among city residents. Not only does this result in a lower cost per homeowner, it's a fairer way to pay for a building that is used by people who live inside and outside the city. In 2000, Arlington residents voted to form a library capital facility area. However, the accompanying bond measure failed. In 2006, a new bond measure was put before Arlington voters. This time, it failed to reach the 60 percent supermajority by 28 votes. By law, if the bond measure fails twice, the library capital facility area dissolves and the process starts from the beginning.

That is where we are today.

The Arlington Library Board, Arlington City Council, Mayor Margaret Larson and Sno-Isle Libraries are asking the community to consider reforming the LCFA. The proposed new library will not only meet the immediate need for additional books, programming space, and access to technology, it will be designed to meet the library needs of the Arlington community for the next 20 years. It is reasonable to expect that over the next 20 years:

n Technology will continue to change and libraries must be flexible enough to accommodate that change. The current Arlington library has eight public computers; the proposed new library will open with at least 32 computers and the flexibility to respond to technology changes in the future.

n In the last five years alone, the community demand for more books and other library materials has grown by 25 percent. The proposed library will offer significantly more shelf space, allowing for 75 percent more materials available on site for residents to check out.

n Over and over we have heard from communities, including Arlington, the need to establish the library as a community center. While the new library will provide programming space for storytimes, book discussion groups and teen programs, the city of Arlington has committed to converting the current library into a community center.

Arlington is a community with a long history of library service. I hope on May 20, each of you will take the opportunity to vote on the future of your library.

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