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New Neighbors!

June 28, 2002

When our insurance man inquired recently about various facts and figures for the library, he asked for our fund balance at the end of last year. I told him.

He hesitated. “Just the fund balance,” he repeated.

“Yes,” I said.

He was surprised. At that point, I didn’t want to explain why we had accumulated a significant fund balance, because we were, in fact, negotiating to spend a large part for its intended purpose.

Last week, the library bought the house next door.

I can hear the range of responses — from “What?” to “Ah, yes.”

It might not be obvious to someone who uses the library and thinks it’s just fine the way it is. Someone else might see that if the library is ever to grow in the future, and if it is to stay downtown in its nice location by Alpine Park, then its options are limited.

The library bought the adjacent property now because it was the first opportunity to do so. It was that simple.

County growth has provided more tax revenue to the library than we had planned for in 1995 — when we first looked at expanding the library and its services. We were able to do more of what we had planned: add more hours, buy more books, put the library catalog on the Internet, start an archive, etc.

But after that, it seemed prudent to put some of the additional “growth” dollars toward planning for growth. After rebuilding our reserve, we began saving money for the possible purchase of property. I’m glad we did this right away, so that we were able to buy when the opportunity came … sooner than I expected.

Part of my job, and a large part of the Library Board’s job, is to think about the library’s future.

Who can know the future? No one, but we can plan as best we can.

New technologies, such as the Internet and online resources, and new media formats, such as books on tape (or CD, or MP3, or e-books), have not reduced demand for, or usage of, library services. They have only added to demand.

Do we have plans for another expansion? Only to the extent that owning adjacent property permits it. We won’t pay off our current bond obligations until 2011. However, I predict we will be feeling quite cozy in the library by then.

The library board did its job very well. The trustees were good keepers of the public trust. They asked a lot of good questions and carefully considered the library’s future.

I wanted very much for the library to buy this property. I despaired for a while, since I thought I valued the property more than the board did, but in the end it was a unanimous decision.

Of course, this was not the only option for the library’s future. It’s just an option I like a lot. I think the library should be downtown. This library is within walking distance of the schools and historic downtown Salida. It is near a city park.

Even though we’re a library district serving half of Chaffee County, rather than just Salida, I don’t think a library on the highway or in the county would serve as well.

Acquiring the house next door secures one option for the library’s future. Meanwhile, for at least the near future, the house will remain what it is — a private residence with nice trees.

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