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Officials gather to discuss future of Crosslake, Pequot Lakes libraries

The future of the Crosslake and Pequot Lakes libraries was discussed Tuesday, Oct. 22, as area council members, library directors, mayors and Kitchigami Regional Library System (KRLS) board members gathered in Brainerd.

The group gathered in part to deliberate whether Pequot Lakes or Crosslake libraries should become KRLS branches.

Currently the two libraries are affiliate libraries and receive funds for materials and book delivery through the KRLS system.

At a Sept. 19 meeting, the KRLS board chose to fund both the Pequot Lakes and Crosslake libraries from a reserve account that had been intended to create a new branch library. That account has a balance of just less than $300,000.

By taking the roughly $20,000 in combined funding to the two libraries from the reserve account, the board said it hoped to speed up the discussion as to whether either library would become a KRLS branch.

The longer the libraries take to decide, the board reasoned, the smaller the fund to create the library will be.

Brainerd City Council and KRLS board member Mary Koep called the Oct. 22 meeting held at Brainerd City Hall. She said her impression from the Sept. 19 KRLS board meeting was that the KRLS board was telling Crow Wing County libraries to “get their act together.”

She said the group needs to resolve the question of whether the county wants to build a new branch library. Currently the county has just one KRLS branch library — the Brainerd Library.

The group agreed that between the Crosslake and Pequot Lakes libraries, Crosslake’s library was the most likely candidate to become a KRLS branch.

Crosslake Mayor Darrell Schneider said Crosslake might be interested in becoming a branch, but needs to know whether service hours would be reduced. He said that when the Crosslake Library was first conceptualized, service was the thing.

Marian Ridge, KRLS director, had previously put together an example scenario of what the Crosslake Library might look like as a branch operating at 32 hours a week. Currently the Crosslake Library operates at 35 hours a week. Crosslake, in turn, asked for the cost of operating the library at 35 hours.

Neal Gaalswyk, KRLS board chair, asked Ridge to come up with a library that would be analogous to Crosslake’s, were the Crosslake Library to become a branch.

Ridge said that an analogous library would be somewhere between Blackduck’s library and Pine River’s library. It would have reduced hours and public funds would be applied to the library in the same way as they are applied to all libraries in the KRLS system.

She said the city could spend its own money to go above and beyond and the hours of operation KRLS could provide, but she usually recommends extra dollars go toward other efforts besides hours.

Koep suggested that it might be time for KRLS to rethink the way it handles small community libraries.

Gaalswyk noted that county funding, as required by the state, isn’t currently enough to keep the Brainerd Library — the only KRLS branch in the county — open for business as usual. The Brainerd Library will cut six hours total in 2014 to meet its budget.

Pequot Lakes Mayor Nancy Adams said that if the Crosslake Library became a branch, county funds would have to go to two libraries, and situation could end up decimating both.

Crow Wing County commissioner Paul Thiede, who represents the Crosslake area, said future branch libraries also needed to know if there was a cost for a “seat at the table” to become a branch in KRLS. Ridge agreed to put together an idea of the cost for the Crosslake Library to become a branch.

Adams and Schneider both agreed to take the matter to their city councils to discuss whether either library was interested to become a branch.

The consensus was also to research the original intent and origination of the reserve account in order to decide its best use in the future.

The group plans to meet in January 2014 to discuss the matter again.