San Juan County libraries enter a new era
Dec 02, 2009 | 1722 views | 0 0 comments | 38 38 recommendations | email to a friend | print
by Georgiana Kennedy Simpson, Chair, San Juan County Library Board

One year ago, San Juan County Commissioners Bruce Adams and Lynn Stevens met with the Library Board, expressing their strong concern over sharply escalating costs for offering Bookmobile services.  

Rather than end the Bookmobile contract at that time, the Library Board asked the commissioners to give them a year to research the costs and benefits of the Bookmobile and look into library service alternatives for outlying communities.

I have long been served by the Bookmobile here in Bluff and am very fond of the service it has provided my family over the years.  In fact, four years ago, I was appointed to the Library Board as a Bookmobile representative.  

It is because of this deep regard in which many residents of this county hold the Bookmobile, including myself, that members of the  Library Board went to great pains over the past year to research and understand the expense and services of the Bookmobile in comparison to opening satellite libraries throughout the county.   

In the past few years, San Juan County experienced a sharp increase in the cost of Bookmobile services.  The State Library formerly carried a heavier share of its cost, but the burden has now shifted to where the county is covering over 70 percent of the Bookmobile’s expense.  

Where it formerly cost San Juan County approximately $25,000 to operate Bookmobile services,  the price paid by the County to the State Library in 2009 was $97,305.   Concurrently, over the past several years, service to outlying areas has actually decreased.  

Stops that Rowland Francom made when he was the driver have been removed from the Bookmobile route to where, in most instances, the Bookmobile is stopping within the communities the Library Board has proposed satellite locations.  

In addition, while almost quadrupling the cost of the Bookmobile, San Juan County neither owns the Bookmobile van nor its collection.   When the Library Board wished to expand services to Navajo Mountain, the State Library delayed the expansion for well over a year.  

With our frustration in sharply escalating costs and lack of local control over the library assets and services offered, we set out to explore the possibility of better ways to deliver library services to the rest of San Juan County.  

With that said, it was then the Library Board’s responsibility to determine if satellite locations could be established at no greater cost than we were currently paying for Bookmobile services.  Interestingly, the satellite library concept in San Juan County is the brain child of former Bookmobile driver, Rowland Francom.  

After over 30 years of serving the county in that capacity, upon his retirement, he became a member of the Library Board.  Having a firm understanding of the outlying communities because of his many decades of serving them, Rowland and the other members of the board believe a great opportunity exists to move library services to the next level throughout the county.

After careful research, it was determined that, in fact, we are able to establish satellite libraries in Bluff, La Sal, Montezuma Creek, Monument Valley and either Aneth or Navajo Mountain at a lower cost than operating a Bookmobile.   

Concerned citizens have asked how such services can be established reasonably.  Fortunately, through partnerships with the San Juan School District and the College of Eastern Utah Family Learning Centers, we have found affordable locations.  

The idea of satellite libraries in the county’s smaller communities is not a new one.  At one time, a local citizen established a library in Bluff in the Old Jail House building.  Montezuma Creek had formed a committee to start a library.   Gary Rock and Pat Seltzer at Monument Valley High School had approached the county almost a decade ago to enter into a partnership to offer public library services in their community.  

Several years ago, I explored the idea of a library in the Bluff community.   In each instance, the projects lacked county support, especially when, up until a few years ago, the Bookmobile was providing services at a fairly reasonable price.

While I was exploring options for a Bluff library and trying to find a home for the Bookmobile further south in the county (it is currently facilitated out of Blanding), Rowland Francom approached the Library Board with the idea of satellites for the county’s smaller communities.  

Our board formed a committee to explore options.  We were able to locate facilities and research collection and operating costs for each location and found we are able to provide this expansion while actually decreasing the costs of outlying library operation.  

Not only are we able to help each of these communities establish their own library, we are able to greatly expand the hours of library services offered within the community.  

With satellite libraries, we can offer between 16 and 64 hours per month of library services depending on the needs of the individual community, a great expansion over Bookmobile hours.    

For example, in the school district partnership test proposed at Monument Valley High School, San Juan County will provide the San Juan School District a grant which will pay for another librarian to serve during public hours and will purchase children’s books to enhance their already substantial collection.     

San Juan County libraries, through a book lease program, are able to bring popular titles into communities more quickly.  

With our Inter-Library Loan capabilities, we can find books for patrons through our network with the State Library and other collections located throughout the state.  We will provide free internet service at each of the locations.  We will bring our excellent Summer Reading Program to children at each location.  

In a separate move, Library Director Dustin Fife, in conjunction with the Grand County Library, came up with an innovative solution for Spanish Valley residents.  Grand County wanted to charge Spanish Valley residents $40 per year to use the Moab library.  Since Spanish Valley residents pay San Juan County taxes, it made sense to grant funds to Grand County to give Spanish Valley residents free access to their beautiful library in Moab.  It is a simple win-win solution for everyone involved.

La Sal and Monument Valley are ready to move forward with their locations.  Both are slated to open by early 2010.  Bluff is not far behind, once we nail down the location.  

The Montezuma Creek Elementary School Community Council has expressed their deep concerns about providing services to the children, especially during the summer.  

We are already brainstorming ideas to address their library needs.  We are currently scheduled to open a satellite library in the Family Learning Center in Montezuma Creek.  

While we realize there are a couple of places such as Hatch Rock which can no longer be directly served by the Bookmobile, the San Juan County Library Board strongly believes we have found an innovative solution which greatly expands library services throughout the entire county.  

It brings back local control of library services and allows each community to design those services to fit their needs.  

Change makes people uncomfortable and yes, sometimes angry.  Be assured the deeply committed members of the San Juan County Library Board did not make this decision lightly, but rather in the spirit of developing stronger library services in each community.  

We are looking for interested citizens to serve in community library committees to design services which fit your community’s needs.  Call Georgiana Kennedy Simpson (672-2360), Cheryle Harvey (651-3210) or Maxine Deeter (686-2331).

The San Juan County Library Board is excited about this great opportunity to bring a library into your community.  We are grateful for the San Juan School District and College of Eastern Utah’s openness and willingness to partner in opening a new era of library services throughout the county.
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