Library backers rejoice

Thom Larkin | Daily TidingsABOVE: Parala Eason, left, and Pauline Black thank passing motorists this morning for supporting the library levy.FRONT: Ashland Library supporters from left to right, Perii Hauschild-Owen, Pam Vavra and Pauline Black celebrate on Tuesday after hearing results of the library levy vote.

Ashland's library levy passed with an unofficial 74.5 percent of the vote as of this morning, meaning library doors can be open 40 hours a week by Nov. 1, election committee members said.

Voters hit the 50 percent mark early in the day on Tuesday &

the first milestone of the election requirement &

and election-watchers were confident the levy had passed when the numbers were reported by county elections officials after 8 p.m.

"I'm absolutely thrilled," said Anne Billeter, former Ashland librarian and south region manager. "Ashland deserved what they have voted for over and over and over again &

they want the library, and they want it open enough hours."

The tax money will keep the libraries open 40 hours, committee members said, supplementing the 24 hours Ashland's branch is slated to be open each week under the management of Maryland-based Library Systems Services, LLC. The passing of Measure 15-79 authorizes the city to implement its plan to collect 20 cents per $1,000 in assessed property value the first year and 25 cents the second year.

A sustainable solution

In the midst of the celebration, members of the Committee to Open Ashland Library were already looking toward the next challenge.

"This is a short-term solution," Billeter said. "It's based on funding that's going to run out. The county and all the people have to work together to provide a long-term sustainable funding option."

Pam Vavra, committee co-chair, said the creation of a library district is the type of long-term solution needed.

"This whole LSSI thing and the two-year levy that we just passed tonight, those are just stop gaps," Vavra said. "We don't have much time to rest. We need to establish a library district with it's own dedicated funding stream and an elected board."

A library district could take many forms, Vavra said, depending on whether it was established county-wide or along school district lines. Funding could come from more property taxes, or even a sales tax, Vavra suggested.

Changes under LSSI

In the meantime, librarians are preparing for the LSSI transition later this month. Former employees will meet with the company on Sept. 26, assuming the county commissioners approve the contract that morning, librarians said.

Although they aren't quite sure what to expect, they don't expect changes to be immediately obvious to the average patron.

"I suspect people will be so happy to have the library open that they won't notice a difference at first," said former librarian John Sexton. "We really don't know what it's going to look like, but it will be different."

Sexton said his biggest concern was not knowing who LSSI will hire, as they are offering fewer positions overall. Librarians are concerned they could be replaced with clerks without library science degrees, he said.

County Administrator Danny Jordan said that while Jackson County cannot control who LSSI hires, the company has made promises regarding Ashland.

"What LSSI said is that for Ashland at 40 hours, they're going to have two LMS staff on duty at the 40 hour level," Jordan said.

Despite the future uncertainties, committee members said the election was a vote of confidence.

"The outpouring of support was phenomenal, and I feel very fortunate to be in a city where 75 percent of the voters value the multitude of services a library provides its community," Vavra said.

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 227 or .

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