Representatives from the Kitchigami Regional Library System (KRLS) proposed developing the Crosslake Area Library from a KRLS associate library into a KRLS Branch, but the idea met resistance Monday, Aug. 26.
Currently KRLS has two associate libraries in Crow Wing County: the Pequot Lakes Library and Crosslake Area Library.
Jon Henke, Crosslake director of parks, recreation and library, told KRLS director Marian Ridge and Cass County Commissioner Neal Gaalswyk at an Associate Libraries Committee meeting Monday, Aug. 26, that the Crosslake Library was not likely to be interested in being developed into a KRLS branch at this time.
Cost of converting the Crosslake Library to a branch was estimated at around $300,000. Currently, there is an account with $294,734 for establishment of other KRLS branch libraries in northern Crow Wing County. The money could be used to offset the high cost of new branch establishment.
The Crow Wing County Board previously agreed to permit the use of these reserve dollars for operating costs for the agreement between KRLS and the Pequot Lakes and Crosslake libraries. If the money is used for operating costs, however, it might not be available for future branch establishment.
Henke said the current cost of operating the library is around $70,000 a year. The cost to operate the Crosslake library as a KRLS branch would be around $67,000 a year, and that proposal included a drop of 10 operating hours per week.
“We need to start looking at the advantages of becoming a branch library. We would be open less hours, and the cost would be the same,” Henke said.
For almost the same amount of money, he said the Crosslake Library could continue working at a higher capacity if it remained separate from KRLS.
“We’re totally satisfied with what we have right now,” Henke said.
“You could take a look at something like this, and if you would want more hours we can look at what more hours would cost,” Ridge said.
Henke also said he was worried that the Brainerd library would suffer if the Crosslake Library were to become a branch.
Ridge said there were concerns of fairness if Crosslake continued its current relationship with KRLS. Ridge said the Crosslake and Pequot Lakes libraries benefit from their relationship with KRLS, but without the same requirements as a branch. KRLS books are available to the Crosslake and Pequot Lakes libraries through an interlibrary loan, but the same cannot be said of all the books in the Crosslake and Pequot Lakes Libraries. If allowed to continue, other libraries might want to leave KRLS to perform in the same capacity.
Henke said the library could eliminate the inequalities without becoming a branch. Ridge asked if that meant the Crosslake Library would stop using the interlibrary loan. Henke said no.
“The interlibrary loan is your patrons, it’s not our patrons,” said Pequot Lakes Mayor and library coordinator Nancy Adams. “They’re your patrons using your library card.”
The Pequot Lakes Library is also being considered to become a branch.
Adams said the Crosslake and Pequot Lakes libraries are used as drop areas for interlibrary loans. Henke also said residents of Pequot Lakes and Crosslake pay taxes to Crow Wing County, and therefore are qualified to use the KRLS system.
“They are eligible to get a regional library card just like anybody else. Those people should be able to have service locally without driving to Brainerd to do that. They are currently having that option at Crosslake and Pequot Lakes,” Henke said.
Ridge said the delivery service is just over $9,000. Henke said that was a fair price.
“What I see is that when you become a branch library, what you are doing is hiring the Kitchigami system to run your library. That’s great, if you have enough money to do it. But that’s how I envision this program, and I’m not sure that either Kitchigami can afford us or we can afford Kitchigami. Personally, I think the way we’ve been doing it for the last three years has been amazing,” Adams said.
Henke said he would like to look more fully into the budgeting behind the proposed library branch development.
“I’m not prepared to keep wasting my time doing scenarios of what the impact would be if Crosslake has said we’re not interested in being a branch library. We put this together for you and you still don’t see an advantage to that,” Ridge said.
Gaalswyk agreed, and said the sample budget provided at the meeting was enough for Henke to bring back to his city council, and if the council or library decided they would be interested in possibly developing a branch, then more examples could be mocked up.
“Ultimately it is up to our city council to make that decision, but we’re happy with the relationship we have right now,” Henke said.
More detailed information for developing a branch library will not be pursued if the councils and libraries are not interested.
“I think it would be important to present to your city council that we have a pot of $294,000, but as that is spent down, it will not be replaced, because that money was put there for a possible proposal of a branch library, and now you are saying that door is closed,” said Rachel Nystrom, Crow Wing County commissioner.
Though the Crosslake Library is not currently showing interest in becoming a KRLS branch, no absolute decision was made. The Crosslake City Council will be given details from the committee meeting, and if any of the parties involved is interested in branch development, then further research can be done and funds will be available.