Thursday, June 30, 2016

Two Placer County Libraries Set to Close, Grand Jury Questions Process and Decisions

Placer County Library Services covers a large portion of Placer County and operates 11 branch libraries. Two of the 11, Loomis and Meadow Vista libraries, are slated to close this month.
Two years ago, the Board of Supervisors gave direction to the Placer County library administration to develop a plan to provide sustainable libraries. Since then, county staff has engaged the public on the issue and given concerned citizens the opportunity to help find alternatives to the closures.
The Library Strategic Plan was derived from interactive discussion in community workshops and through surveys with more than 500 community leaders and Placer County constituents.
By reaching out to residents and asking them to share their aspirations and expectations for themselves, their families, and their community, the Library was able to capture the strategies and initiatives necessary to help meet community expectations of future Library programs and services.
However, according to the 2015-2016 Placer County [Grand Jury] Final Report, these “community conversations” were never held in Loomis or Meadow Vista. The report states “The Grand Jury recommends that Placer County Library Services seek viable options prior to solidifying plans to close a library. They have a duty to seek community input as to proposed direction and impact.”
Both communities showed overwhelming support for keeping their libraries open. Each has conducted meetings, explored alternatives and asked for more time to evaluate their options. Nevertheless, the Placer County Library Services and the Board of Supervisors voted to close the two libraries.
County staff are currently in talks with the Town of Loomis to lease the Loomis library building to function as a community learning center or possible municipal library.
In a recent county press release District 3 Supervisor Jim Holmes said “I am excited at the potential for the beautiful Loomis library building to continue its use as a critical community amenity.” Holmes went on to say, “The lease agreement between the county and Town of Loomis will ensure the building will continue to be an important asset to the people of Loomis.”
Library staff are currently in discussions to determine the best alternative service delivery models for the Meadow Vista community, including increased use of the Placer County bookmobile and book drops, as well as potential mobile library services at the local community center.
In the same county press release District 5 Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery said “While I know there are people disappointed at the closure of the bricks and mortar library, we can very confidently let people know they will continue to have library service in Meadow Vista, it’s just going to be a different model.” Montgomery went on to say, “This model will continue to let us have a more sustainable library system that will serve the entirety of people in Placer County.”
Although Supervisors Holmes and Montgomery remain very positive that the two closures will allow for more modern and sustainable library services throughout the library system.  The conclusion in the Final Grand Jury Report disagrees that both Loomis and Meadow Vista were allowed proper consideration in determining which county libraries would shut down.
However, since the closure date for both libraries is June 2016, no Grand Jury recommendation will have a bearing on these closures. Instead, the Grand Jury proposed four recommendations to any future county library closures:
     Placer County Library Services make the wants and needs of each community a major priority.
     Placer County Library Services revise the strategic plan to reflect those wants and needs of the affected communities rather than, “moving beyond an interconnected system of small ‘town’ libraries to a fully independent network of County library service outlets.”
     At least six months prior to proposing a library closure the Placer County Library Services must hold local public forums and perform input surveys in every affected community.
     The Supervisor of the impacted district should solicit input from their constituents prior to making library decisions.
These recommendations will insure that the library closure process will need some adaptation moving forward. However, for the towns of Loomis and Meadow Vista, it appears that the majority of it’s citizens who voted to keep their communities libraries open, will have to live with the Placer County Library Services’ and the Placer County Board of Supervisor’s decisions.
June 28, 2016
KAHI: AM 950

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