Future Of Libraries Again Before KCLS; Delay Requested Until Annexation Decided
Burien-area residents who hope to save the White Center and Boulevard Park libraries from closure and consolidation in a new facility got a reprieve on May 24.
But Tuesday evening (June 28) at 5 p.m., the King County Library System (KCLS) Board of Trustees will revisit a staff recommendation – pushed by Director Bill Ptacek – to do just that.
The meeting will be held at the KCLS headquarters building in Issaquah.
Whether the five-member board responds to pleas to delay action at this time – by North Highline library patrons, a unanimous Burien City Council and Highline-area legislators, among others – or opts to do Ptacek’s bidding seems anybody’s guess until the meeting begins.
Library staff will also suggest possible locations for a new library in North Burien, which board President Judge Richard Eadie requested at the last meeting.
King County Councilman Joe McDermott, whose 8th County Council District includes Burien and North Highline, last month urged the trustees “not to take action until a decision on annexation” of the remaining unincorporated area is made.
“A more appropriate time” to decide the future of the North Burien libraries would be “after annexation, which should be determined in about a year,” McDermott said.
Barbara Dobkin, president of the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council, made the same request, noting that Seattle has backed away from annexing the remaining unincorporated area.
Since then, the legislative delegations representing Districts 11 and 34, which include North Burien and North Highline, have called on trustees to wait until Burien decides whether to annex the area.
White Center Library Guild President Rachel Levine and other volunteers had, as of a week ago, collected over 1,000 signatures on petitions requesting that the White Center and Boulevard Park libraries remain open to serve neighborhood residents who need them in their communities.
The petitions also ask that long-promised upgrades to both libraries be made. Funding for these improvements is included in the 2004 KCLS bond issue that was approved by voters.
Burien City Council Resolution
And on May 20, the Burien City Council adopted on a 7-0 vote a resolution “respectfully” urging the trustees to delay their decision for at least 60 days.
The Burien City Council resolution reads:
WHEREAS, the King County Library System (KCLS) is considering the future of the White Center and Boulevard Park libraries; and
WHEREAS, these libraries are of interest to the Burien City Council due to their usage by Burien residents and their location in the North Burien area annexed in 2010; and
WHEREAS, the Council views library improvements as a very positive development in the community; and
WHEREAS, KCLS Board of Trustees members have advised the City that uncertainty over the possible annexation of the remaining North Highline unincorporated area has made it difficult for the library to plan improvements in the community; and
WHEREAS, in part to bring resolution to this question, the Burien City Council at its meeting on May 23, 2011, agreed to consider the question of annexation within sixty (60) days.
NOW, THEREFORE, THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF BURIEN, WASHINGTON, DOES RESOLVE AS FOLLOWS:
Section 1. The Council respectfully urges the Board of Trustees of the King County Library System to delay any action regarding library improvements affecting North Burien until after the City Council makes a decision on proposing a North Highline annexation.
Section 2. If the Council does not pursue annexation, the Council requests that the Library Board work with the City Council to determine an acceptable option, and if the Council decides to advance annexation, the Council requests that the Library Board table the question until after the residents of North Highline have a chance to vote on whether or not to join Burien.
Burien City Councilwoman Lucy Krakowiak, who is also an appointed KCLS trustee, declared prior to casting her vote, “Libraries are very important to our communities and I support this issue wholeheartedly.”
In the past, Krakowiak, citing a conflict of interest, recused herself from commenting and voting on North Burien library issues.
Her proactive action last week now has residents of this recently-annexed area hoping that she will vote to delay action on consolidation at the board meeting, and will lobby fellow trustees to do the same.
KCLS Staff Pushes Forward
All these requests to the trustees have, however, fallen on deaf ears of Ptacek and his KCLS staff, who seem determined to push through construction of a new library facility in North Burien, where the White Center and Boulevard Park libraries would then be consolidated.
Ptacek has, in fact, been maneuvering for a new consolidated library in the area since 2008.
The summary of the KCLS staff report on consolidation, as included in the agenda posted online here (PDF file), states:
Whether North Highline will be annexed will not be known until 2012 at the earliest. The City of Burien plans to examine the annexation issue later this year, but will not be prepared to place the annexation issue on the ballot until February 2012, or possibly later, according to City of Burien officials.
The City of Seattle also previously voted to table the annexation question until February 2012. Regardless of whether North Highline is annexed to the City of Burien or Seattle in the coming year, the existing White Center Library would still need to be expanded, relocated or consolidated.
Based on the information gathered, including public input, staff recommends that the KCLS Board of Trustees direct staff to pursue the consolidation of the White Center and Boulevard Park libraries into a single, new facility located south of the current libraries and between the two communities.
Pursuing a consolidated library at a new location is favored for several reasons: the selection of a new site and planning for a new library may begin immediately while construction costs are favorable; operating one centrally located library will result in significant annual savings in operational costs; and a larger library will provide a higher level of service and increased access to library resources than two smaller libraries.
This is supported by data that shows that traffic is 34% higher and circulation is 43% higher at 10,000 to 15,000-square-foot libraries than 5,000 to 6,000-square-foot buildings.
If directed, staff will proceed with identifying potential sites for a consolidated library and evaluate them using KCLS’ Site Selection Policy, with an emphasis on visibility, accessibility and site capacity. After a site is selected, KCLS may then begin the design process, which includes opportunities for public input.
Regarding the future use of the existing White Center and/or Boulevard Park libraries if a new consolidated library is pursued, public or government use of the buildings may be considered, according to City of Burien officials.
But critics of consolidating the libraries, including Levine and Burien City Councilmembers Rose Clark and Jack Block Jr., question building a new facility at a location that would be inconvenient for residents of the underserved White Center and Boulevard Park neighborhoods.
They have also asked why a new library building should be built in North Burien, perhaps only two miles or less from the downtown Burien Library that just opened in 2009.
And Levine has challenged the survey on which that data is based, charging that it was weighted to generate answers that favored consolidation.