1995 study on new Olympia Library

Recently I picked up some material that was produced 15 years ago when Olympia was looking at building a new library. The levy failed in that election, but its interesting to see what people where saying back then about a new library building.

In addition to a hilarious video, I also picked up the very thorough study on the reasons Olympia needed a new library. Here it is:

Here are my thoughts that’ve come up between the video and the study:

1. The new library building would have been paid for through a levy not just on Olympia residents, but residents throughout the Olympia School District (not including Griffin, which many people consider part of OSD). This would have been though the flexible requirements of the boundaries of a Library Capital Facility Area. The only real requirement is that the boundaries be within the library district the new building would serve.

This is interesting because some have argued that rural library districts, because cities have to annex into them, are unfair to incorporated communities. At least in this way, by expanding the boundaries of a LCFA beyond city limits, the cost of new building can be taken off the backs of city residents.

2. The 60 percent limit is still in place for libraries. A few years back we lowered the limit needed to pass a school levy from 60 to 50 percent (plus one). So for new city halls, new fire stations and schools, the political calculation is still different than for new libraries. I understand there is a constitutional reason for this, but it seems strange that various sorts of buildings are held to a different standard.

3. The video is hilarious not because of its content, but because of the dated style. Throughout the first part, there are Almost Live-esque “person on the street” questions like “Why do we need a new library?” When I watched, it was laugh out loud funny.

4. Along with the situation in Yelm right now, the Olympia Library is the most pressing library building issue in Thurston County. The building was undersized 15 years ago and is really undersized now. The library management done a great job leveraging donations to keep the current building fresh, but there is only so much polish you can put on a small building.

A recent study showed more support for a westside branch than what was attempted in 1997, a single larger downtown branch. I’m not sure we should stop our thinking at building new branches, but also think about how we can expand library services to other public areas in the city.


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