Voters narrowly approved the Enumclaw library acquisition by the King County Library System back in April 2012 by 35 votes. Where would we be today had the vote been different? Let’s examine some potential scenarios.
Scenario 1: The Enumclaw City Council would have decided to close the library due to lack of funds. That means there would have been no library in town. All employees would have lost their jobs. Since there was no reciprocal agreement with KCLS or the Pierce County Library System, there would be no access to either. That means most people would have been without a library to use at all. Who would that have hurt the most? The poor and those who could not afford to buy books and who do not have Internet access.
Scenario 2: The council would have put a levy before the voters to raise the money to pay for a local library. This likely would not have passed due to current voter resistance to any form of increased taxation, especially with an actual rate equal to 65 cents per $1,000 property tax valuation that the previous library advisory board recommended. At 65 cents, we would have only gone back to what we had before the cuts. With a levy failure Enumclaw would have been without a library and unable to use either KCLS or PCLS with a cooperative agreement.
These scenarios did not come to pass because voters approved the KCLS acquisition.
What has this meant for our town?
• KCLS provides us far better service at its 50¢/$1,000 rate.
• One of the chief fears back in 2012 of a KCLS takeover was that we would lose our local friendly staff. If you have visited the KCLS Enumclaw library you will quickly find that the local staff is there and the new staff is also friendly and helpful.
• Another fear of going with KCLS was that Enumclaw would have lost local control. In actuality, KCLS pays for maintenance and upkeep not only for the library, but also for the city parking lot adjacent to it. KCLS is now responsible for roof and building repairs, removing the burden from an overburdened city government. Local control has been lost, but better, broader service has replaced it. Additionally, KCLS is innovative and moving ahead with new technology. As an example, e-books can now be downloaded. Because KCLS has reciprocal agreements with PCLS, patrons now have even wider access to resources.
• Previously, our citizens subsidized other cities in King County with the cooperative agreement with KCLS. Before the Muckleshoot library was built, most King County Plateau residents used the Enumclaw library. Your tax money is now used in your own community.
• Since the spring of 2012, the number of hours the library has been open has nearly doubled from 35 hours per week to 63 hours. KCLS is working to improve service and build community involvement by encouraging the younger generation of patrons to become familiar with its resources.
We can only gratefully acknowledge that we now enjoy far better service with KCLS than what we ever deemed possible with our old library. Sometimes change does bring improvement.
Note: Richard Elfers is the current chair of the Enumclaw Library Advisory Board. All the members of the Board reviewed and approved this article.