The Kitchigami Regional Library Service (KRLS) Board voted unanimously Thursday, March 28, to reinstate $5,000 in funding each to the Pequot Lakes and Crosslake libraries.
The board had cut a combined $20,000 in funding to both libraries ($10,000 to each) after the Crow Wing County Board unexpectedly cut $20,000 from the KRLS budget.
The KRLS board moved its meeting to Pine River City Hall in anticipation of the crowd that attended and filled the room. Applause was the dominant response to the board’s decision.
Jon Henke, Crosslake director of parks, recreation and library, made a presentation to the board March 28. His presentation included resolutions of support from 14 neighboring cities and townships surrounding, and including, Crosslake and Pequot Lakes.
Henke argued that those 14 cities and townships pay a total of 44 percent of the taxes to Crow Wing County that go to KRLS. However, KRLS provides no other funding to Crosslake or Pequot Lakes libraries, which are considered affiliate libraries, not branch libraries.
Brainerd’s library is the only KRLS branch library in Crow Wing County.
All of Crow Wing County’s tax money that goes to libraries goes to KRLS. KRLS then makes the decision how the funding should be used.
Crosslake and Pequot Lakes libraries received $5,000 each from KRLS in 2010 and 2011, and $10,000 each in 2012. That money was used for materials, like books.
KRLS cardholders can borrow KRLS books through the Pequot Lakes and Crosslake libraries by ordering the books and picking them up at the library.
Neal Gaalswyk, KRLS board chair, made the point that materials that KRLS funds at the Pequot and Crosslake libraries aren’t accessible to other areas of the county the way the Brainerd library’s materials are.
Gaalswyk used himself as an example. “How would I access these books that at least in part are being paid for by (my) taxes?” Gaalswyk asked. He was pointing out that materials from the Pequot and Crosslake libraries are not mobile the way KRLS materials are.
Henke responded, “The way we view it is that’s a small investment to make in northern Crow Wing County.”
Henke added that if, sometime down the road, Crosslake’s or Pequot Lakes’ library becomes part of the KRLS system, those materials would return to KRLS’ hands.
Gaalswyk also explained the threads of conversation that took place when the KRLS board chose to take away the funding to Pequot and Crosslake libraries.
He said the board discussed that regional resources given to Pequot and Crosslake were being used for materials that couldn’t travel from those libraries, and that the vast majority of circulation (90-95 percent, Gaalswyk said) goes through the Brainerd library.
It was pointed out that the circulation Gaalswyk was referring to was for KRLS materials only, and did not include numbers from Crosslake’s or Pequot Lakes’ own materials.
Gaalswyk said the action of the county board also weighed on the KRLS board’s decision. The motion to cut $20,000 from KRLS’ budget was made by county commissioner Paul Thiede, who is the representative for both Crosslake and Pequot Lakes.
“Part of it (the decision to cut funding) was a reflection of the representative and that the impetus for the cut to library services was brought forward by people that represent this portion of Crow Wing County,” Gaalswyk said.
It was also pointed out that the Crow Wing County Board did not pass a resolution supporting the motion that the KRLS board reinstate funding to the two libraries. Henke had brought the resolution before the board and made a presentation, but Thiede was the only commissioner to vote in favor of it.
“They were given a very clear opportunity to say, ‘That’s not what we wanted you to do,’ but they didn’t do that,” Gaalswyk said of the county board’s decision.
The county board’s reasoning behind its lack of support was that it did not wish to micromanage the KRLS board in telling it where to put its funding.
Marian Ridge, KRLS director, said that if the board decided to provide funding to the Pequot Lakes and Crosslake libraries, the board should think on a larger context for consistency.
“I do think that part of the board’s thought process is how far does it extend its belief that other branch libraries are fulfilling our mission,” Ridge said. She pointed to the Nisswa Community Children’s Library, which does not receive materials support from KRLS, along with libraries in Remer and Hackensack.
Once the KRLS board made the decision to reinstate $5,000 in materials funding to both libraries, the next question was where that money would come from. The money must come from a line item on the Crow Wing County budget, not from any of the other four counties in the KRLS system.
Some discussion surrounded a reserve balance KRLS has for Crow Wing County, which amounts to just shy of $300,000. Some disagreed with using that money, saying it should be saved for future extensions of KRLS service in Crow Wing County.
The board requested that Ridge put together options for where the funding could come from. Ridge said she could provide options, but would not recommend using KRLS’ fund reserve for Crow Wing County.
“I have very strong feelings that these community funded libraries have a lifespan of 15-20 years before wanting to become a branch library,” Ridge said. “Every library that is currently a branch began as an initiative of small groups of people who wanted a library. They started exactly the same way, then reached a point where they couldn’t do that anymore.”
The board will review Ridge’s options for where the funding for Pequot Lakes and Crosslake libraries will come from at its April board meeting.