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Libraries propose reciprocal borrowing
9/12/2012 10:59:08 AM

By Josh Johnson
Splash Staff Writer

Days removed from seeing library access jump from 30,000 titles to half a million, city of Liberty Lake residents may be on the cusp of access to half a million more. 

The Liberty Lake City Council and Spokane County Library District Board of Trustees will both vote Tuesday on an interlocal agreement that would permit reciprocal borrowing between the two entities, effectively meaning a city resident could hold a membership card in both library systems. 

Since 2004, when library-related property taxes paid by city residents first became dedicated to a municipal system instead of the Spokane County Library District, county residents have maintained mostly free access to the city's library. (The library flirted for a short period with charging for non-resident cards during 2011 but soon after abandoned the idea.) The reverse, however, has never been the case. 

"From day one, we have always looked at partnering with the library district," Liberty Lake Mayor Steve Peterson said. "They looked at it from a different perspective than we did."

When the city was considering pulling out of the county's library district in 2003, the SCLD Board of Trustees rejected the idea of a reciprocal agreement "for reasons of District-wide funding equity and fairness," according to a June 2003 Splash article. When SCLD's new executive director, Nancy Ledeboer, toured the Liberty Lake facility early this summer, however, Municipal Library Director Pamela Mogen dusted off the topic. 

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"I said, ‘What do you think about reciprocal borrowing? Is this something you could see would be possible?'" Mogen recalled. "And she talked to me and said, ‘There is no reason in the world we shouldn't be doing this. We're not competitors. There is no reason for us to act like competitors.' So I said, ‘Yea!'"

Ledeboer took the SCLD reins in March. She noted the geographic convenience many south-of-Sprague patrons enjoy in using  the Liberty Lake Library and felt those closer to the Otis Orchards Library could benefit from that facility. Mostly, however, she said a focus on thinking regionally makes sense for the community as a whole. 

"When I lived here back in the ‘90s, I didn't get the feeling there was much of a focus on regional collaboration," she said. "As a region, if we want to be competitive, we're not competing with one another. We're competing with Minneapolis and other communities our size. We need to meet together."

Ledeboer said this philosophy is held by her board of trustees, which is why she believes they will support the agreement.

"I think our board wants what's best for libraries in the entire community," she said. "... It's really hard to advocate for just one library. You can't just say, ‘My library is the best.' We have to advocate for all libraries and overcome the differences to focus on what we are all trying to accomplish as a whole."

Under the terms of the agreement, which has already been signed off on by lawyers from both entities, there will be some restrictions on the SCLD card for city of Liberty Lake residents, Ledeboer said. City residents will not be eligible to receive interlibrary loans, check out ebooks or gain access to certain databases. She said in some cases, licensing agreements and subscription plans forced these restrictions. Mogen said fewer restrictions exist in the opposite scenario, but part of that is due to the fact the city library is already used to serving a large non-resident membership - about 22 percent of its patrons.

True for both is that items checked out from one system must be returned to the same system.
"We would find a way to get it back to (Liberty Lake), but it would likely incur overdue fees," Ledeboer said. 

The SCLD system is one of the 10 largest in the state, encompassing 10 libraries and a collection of about 500,000 items. Its board will consider the agreement as part of a full agenda at 4 p.m. Tuesday at the North Spokane branch, 44 E. Hawthorne Road. 

Effective Aug. 21, the Liberty Lake Municipal Library joined the Cooperative Information Network, a consortium of 25 chiefly North Idaho libraries that share access to 500,000 titles. The City Council will consider the reciprocal agreement with SCLD when it meets 7 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 22710 E. Country Vista Drive, a decision Peterson called a "no-brainer."

"I'm just so thrilled," Mogen said. "From the western edge of the county all the way through the panhandle, Liberty Lake residents will be able to get information." 

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