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Crow Wing County Board requests that KRLS fund Pequot, Crosslake libraries

The Crow Wing County Board approved a resolution Tuesday, Sept. 10, requesting that the Kitchigami Regional Library System (KRLS) Board allocate $5,000 in funding to both the Pequot Lakes and Crosslake libraries for the next three years.

The resolution also requested that KRLS work with the Pequot Lakes and Crosslake libraries to explore the potential to become on-par with other libraries in the system.

In addition to those requests, the county board funded KRLS the minimum required by Minnesota state law, which is $509,127. KRLS has asked for $535,221. The resolution passed on a 4-1 vote, with board chair Rachel Reabe Nystrom opposed.

Currently, Pequot Lakes and Crosslake libraries are affiliate libraries in the KRLS system. Jon Henke, director of parks, recreation and library at Crosslake, said the Crosslake and Pequot Lakes libraries have been exploring the possibility of becoming branch libraries. Pine River and Brainerd libraries are examples of branch libraries in the KRLS system.

Pequot Lakes and Crosslake libraries currently operate independently but with the support of KRLS. Both libraries have received funding for materials from KRLS for the past few years. In 2012 each library received $10,000, and in 2013 each library received $5,000. That funding is yet to be determined for 2014.

While the county can offer recommendations on how KRLS spends the funding the county provides, the KRLS board has the final call on where that money goes.

Henke said by phone that KRLS’ proposal for Crosslake to become a branch library was for the library to be open 25 hours a week, whereas currently Crosslake is open 35 hours a week for around the same cost. Henke said the cost for the extra 10 hours a week was not yet available.

“We’re interested in doing the research it takes to make an informed decision,” Henke said of the Crosslake Library becoming a KRLS branch. “Until we get all the facts we’re not going to take a serious look at that.”

Neal Gaalswyk, chair of the KRLS board, said the money the county board was recommending KRLS spend on Crosslake and Pequot Lakes libraries is in a fund that was set aside for future branch libraries.

Gaalswyk is one of many board members who will meet to discuss 2014 budgeting at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 19, at KRLS regional headquarters in Pine River. He said the board was looking for direction from Crow Wing County on how to continue services as funding from the county was cut.

While he said he plans to take into account the county’s suggestion to give Crosslake and Pequot Lakes the $5,000 a year for three years, he said in his opinion the KRLS board needs to remember that funding was set aside for a purpose — to create a branch library in Crow Wing County. The fund currently has just under $300,000 saved up.

“It buys us some time, so to speak, to talk about a long-term solution,” Gaalswyk said of the $5,000 a year funding idea, but he added, “That’s money set aside for a reason, and I just want to be careful how we spend it.”

He said that while the funding for a future branch library is spent down, the cost to open a branch library continues to go up.

Gaalswyk said that of the two libraries, Crosslake was the most likely candidate to become a KRLS branch because it’s up and ready and staffed.

“Whether it makes sense (for Crosslake to become a branch library) is something we have to continue to meet about,” he said.

The KRLS board agenda for Thursday includes discussion items regarding the KRLS budget and the Crow Wing County Board resolution passed Sept. 10.