On May 12, Trustees of Woodland Public Library (WPL) met and considered several items of civic interest.

____  Bath For Library  ____

Resulting from a well-placed remark by Yolo County Historical Society President, Bj Ford, that WPL “looks grimy,” a well-equipped and capable municipal power-washer (employee) was dispatched to such duty on May 13, providing a much needed cleansing of this historical edifice, including its heavily trafficked, worse than grimy front steps.

____  New DVD Checkout Limit  ____

WPL has until now boasted by far the largest total number of articles (books, DVDs, etc.) allowed for individual patron checkout among libraries in this region: 60.

Surrounding libraries have long ago generally imposed checkout limits of 5 DVDs per patron, for instance. At this meeting, trustees almost acted to place an identical limit on DVD circulation, currently limited to 20.

But, at last they deferred to the judgment of Library Services Director, Heather Muller, exercising operational authority to set the new limit at 10 DVDs per patron.

____  Woodland Literacy Service: Tops In State — With Part-Time Staff  ____

Woodland Literacy Service (WLS), functioning under auspices of WPL, has been identified by state library authorities as — one of the top three — such programs in California. Its Director, Sue Bigelow, has for more than a year been on the verge of becoming a full-time employee, a status strongly sponsored by WPL trustees, who believe Bigelow is likely working full-time and more.

California State Library Foundation recently awarded WPL & WLS a grant of $10,000 to fund employment workshops and obtain computers available for such purposes to those without them. Yolo County was recently ranked national runner-up in percentage of unemployed persons.

Despite the fact that Bigelow attracts substantial funding through a variety of philanthropic and corporate grants to produce WLS’s top-shelf literacy related programs, plus enough to fully provide her full-time salary (without city money), municipal management authorities have for quasi-bureaucratic and staff-freeze reasons resisted elevating her employment status — until now.

A special provision will apparently be included within the upcoming (2011-12) city budget, which establishes the WLS director as a three-quarters to full-time position — contingent upon available funding, as evaluated by WPL trustees.

Trustees are submitting a coordinating memorandum to city hall confirming mutual understanding of this city budget amendment, in anticipation of this long-awaited elevation of the staff position of WLS director.

____  Woodland Children Lack Librarian  ____

Another staffing quandary for WPL trustees has been the position of Children’s Librarian, which has for several months gone vacant as a result of staffing transition.

WPL trustees have already interviewed candidates and selected the new person to fill this key position and are currently employing them via funding for temporary labor, since the city manager, Mark Deven, has resisted hiring them as a full-time employee.

This resistance, according to one WPL trustee, is likely related to overall municipal labor negotiations, which remain variously unsettled regarding mid-management employees, police and firefighters.

For one example, 2010 ballot measures designed to help support and maintain municipal service levels were adopted by local voters — but city management and city personnel associations haven’t yet been able to agree on essential overtime provisions related to some expenditures of this quarter-cent sales tax increment.

Absent total resolution of all municipal labor issues, Deven and associated municipal management have been (allegedly) unwilling to formally hire the new WPL Children’s Librarian.

Viewing this manner of obstruction by city management as unreasonable, since the present library budget accommodates filling this staff position, trustees expressed their common dismay.

Trustees have thus decided to soon employ political strategy directly used within these 2010 ballot measures, of using an active coalition of relevant interests, by attempting to create overt (or perhaps tacit but effective) endorsements to city management by these yet to be fully contracted, organized labor interests, regarding WPL being finally allowed (absent complete labor harmony) to formally hire its new Children’s Librarian.

____  City Budget Numbers incomprehensible  ____

Preliminary budget figures sent to trustees by city hall were met with startling incomprehension by trustees.

Basically, about the only things agreed to be relatively accurate are the beginning and ending numbers.

Incompatibility of perspectives about resource allocations and functional expenses, between WPL trustees and city hall has been a decade-long saga, often coloring discussions of potential WPL independence as a special district.

In one seeming step toward resolving a lingering sore-spot for trustees, with the new budget city management is apparently exempting WPL’s state library related funding category from regular overhead expenses.

____  City Toy Library Indigestible  ____

Mayor Art Pimentel has requested trustees immediately consider relocating the municipal toy library back within WPL walls, since it must soon vacate its present site.

Years ago, the city toy library was for a while functioning from the WPL basement, where the Friends of WPL now locate. Within the near universal, Carnegie library format, this basement space (with front entrance) was originally designated as the Children’s Library.

Anyone familiar with library space exigencies would instantly recognize that the only library space reasonably available for any added purpose, is the 2000 square foot, southwestern first-floor area (underneath the present children’s section of WPL), which — unbelievably — has remained undeveloped / unfinished for almost a quarter-century.

Speaking volumes about civic priorities, Mayor Pimentel recently led city council action immediately redirecting an annual portion ($1.5 million, total) of Measure E’s roadway maintenance fund for use in construction of additional sports park facilities at the new community and senior center; while, WPL’s original (1988) renovation and expansion remains unfulfilled.

10% of WPL space is incapable of being used by Woodland residents and taxpayers, because its construction has not been completed for 23 years.

At around 20,000 square feet in total, while serving a population of around 60,000, WPL falls quite far short of national guidelines for library size per population (about one-third (.33) square foot per capita, contrasted with long-adopted library standards of one-half (.50) to one (1.0) square foot per capita of service area).

Trustees agreed that if Mayor Pimentel succeeds with funding immediate completion of this key and desperately needed WPL space, they would consider using some of it for housing the toy library for some limited period of time.

____  Library Computers Replaced, Updated  ____

After several months of chaotic and (sometimes extremely) limited access environment, WPL public computers are now for the most part back in operation, being fully replaced and updated.

Regular users complain, though, about episodic spasms of noise and distraction related to confining 20 computer users (and perhaps their friends / associates) within a relatively small space, wherein DVDs are also often briskly circulated, sometimes jokingly referring to this room as the “computer mosh pit.”

Clearly, various conditions and patron options should be available, from computer chatting chambers and social / gaming areas — to totally quiet (library-like) zones.

Unfortunately, because WPL is severely undersized and incomplete, there is no suitable space for such indulgences as having reliably quiet, public computer access, or even for having a proper place where teenagers could constructively congregate.

Less than 200 square feet of WPL space (outside the computer room / mosh pit) is devoted to serving adolescents.

____  Trustees Eye June 2012 Ballot Measure  ____

Converging circumstances of trustees’ slowly dissolving confidence about WPL’s future role as a municipal appendage and its basic operational capability when the recently adopted (2010) quarter-cent sales tax provision, Measure V, sunsets in 2014, have finally created some initial dynamic of quasi-progressive movement within municipal-library relations.

Even an inadequate (10,000 — should be 30,000+ sq. ft.) expansion plan for WPL, written into the city General Plan and supposedly funded by presently allocated $4+ million of non-accessible, perhaps forever eclipsed Measure E money (half-cent sales tax, 2006 – 2018, largely gone to pay debt service on the community and senior center / sports park), seems a far distant mirage — as library service demands consistently increase.

Recognizing city council priorities with maintaining public-safety service levels when this temporarily supplemental sales tax funding within Measure V expires in 2014, as the economy is expected to slowly recover vitality, city hall is now proposing to trustees a June 2012 ballot measure to create an eighth-cent of added sales tax revenue for WPL, beginning in 2014.

City hall desires to pass this measure by majority vote, as with previous such elections, bound by (related) advisory measure; however, WPL trustees have decided to request a two-thirds vote — establishing a fully dedicated funding stream for an extended period of time.

It was the advisory (non-binding, non-dedicated) nature of Measure E (2006) that permitted city hall to decide to void promised / timely WPL funding for urgently needed expansion, in favor of paying debt service on the community and senior center (and sports park).

As an aside: if Measure E was adopted in 2006 as a variously dedicated stream of sales tax revenue, city hall would not have been able to leverage that (by law: pooled, General Fund) money within the municipal (political) imperative to ‘super-size’ the new community and senior center. Perhaps as a result, city redevelopment authority might have been used to more centrally locate a reasonable civic services center.

Rough projections, according to trustees’ information obtained from city hall, indicate that an eighth-cent sales tax would annually raise slightly in excess of $1 million (perhaps, slowly increasing over time as a function of economic conditions).

Trustees have for several years investigated the process of forming an independent special district and separating from municipal authority. During this inquiry it became clear that new funding, supplemental to severed municipal revenue (a portion of property tax), would be required to fiscally support such an arrangement.

A dedicated, extended funding stream beginning in 2014, based upon a 2012 ballot measure, would establish a reliable vehicle upon which WPL independence as a special district may become accomplished.