Committee exploring super library concept
A conceptual project that has been in the works for some time recently came to the forefront - the creation of a super library.
A committee of representatives from various entities in Carbon County have been discussing the concept for more than a year.
The group's membership includes representatives from Carbon County, College of Eastern Utah, Price city, East Carbon and the local school district and others.
The basic idea is to create a library that will serve the general public, the public school district and college students.
During the discussions about constructing a county recreation center, it was mentioned that a new library could be incorporated into the facility if the project were to be built.
The Price City Library is more than 40 years old, having been built in the late 1950s and the CEU facility was originally constructed in 1968.
The college library underwent a major remodeling project in the mid-1990s to address structural problems at the facility.
The idea of a single facility that consolidates two libraries, one from the public sector and one from an academic venue, is not new. While not a common move in the United States, the concept has been acted upon at locations overseas, particularly in Europe.
Recently in California, San Jose joined the city's main library branch with San Jose State University.
According to numerous sources, San Jose's action was the first time a major university and a large city have combined libraries in the United States.
Sanpete County and Snow College in Ephraim are also discussing a similar possibility. Like Carbon, Sanpete has no county library system and a central super facility could offer better service to all residents.
"I think it's a great idea," said Barbara Steffee, the director of the CEU library. "It would put everything in the same location and available to whoever needed it."
The Price city facility's head librarian indicated that she is excited about the possibility.
"We are just in the conceptual, talking stage right now," commented Norma Procarione. "I think it could work very well when we work out the logistical problems."
The problems are probably related to the building that may be constructed to house the facility as much as the management of two libraries under one roof, according to the local group.
In fact, the architecture of the building could help with resolving the management challenges.
Examples of potential problems include the logistics of various collections, conflicts between operation hours and the fact that the college library has to pass a rigid evaluation process to keep the school's accreditation intact.
One concern American library resource people have involves the fact that a digital divide exists between people who understand new technologies that have come into play in recent years and people who do not.
Local librarians indicate that, because of the continual changes in the purpose of the facilities, the idea of combining is more likely.
"We don't have to work under the same old concepts that libraries have operated on for years," pointed out Steffee. "A lot has changed and there are ways to do this."
"For instance, some areas could be common, such as the reference collection, while other areas would definitely need to be separate from each other."
One matter to think of in terms of separation would be the children's area.
"I can't imagine trying to have children's story hour while final exams are going on for the college students," noted Procarione. "Again, a lot of those problems can be solved by the architecture of the building."
The basic concepts of developing a combined library leave individual collections intact, but located under one roof. Each collection or section would have a head librarian.
Probably one of the biggest difficulties in proceeding with a combined super library would be securing the necessary funding, according to the local group.
Funding possibilities for the super library's construction include grants, low-interest loans and bonds, explained the group.
But dealing with government entities in public-public partnerships to ensure funding for ongoing operations and maintenance can be more difficult than finding the initial money to build a facility.
In the case of a local super library project, there would probably be more than two public entities involved in the partnership.
Obviously, the city and the college would be involved, but so might the county and other incorporated areas, explained the local committee.
To operate, the facility would require mixed funding, which could pose problems not only under the laws of the state, but also logistically, continued the community group.
In addition, the super library director or directors might have multiple agencies to answer to.
For years, many local residents have asked about the possibility of a county library system.
Constructing a combined super library could be part of the answer, noted the members of the community committee.
Price, Helper and East Carbon have city libraries and county residents have been able to use the resources.
For instance, Price allows non-incorporated county residents to use the library services, including checking out materials.
Carbon County government pays a $15 per family fee when the residents in neighboring unincorporated areas request a Price City Library card.
"For incorporated areas outside of Price, the family must pay the $15 themselves," stated Procarione.
The San Jose group had to raise part of the money to build the new super library by conducting fundraisers.
The members of the California group put up a 477,000 square foot structure with all the bells and whistles possible. the total cost of the building registered at $177 million.
Local officials have a significantly smaller project in mind for the Carbon County community.
But some of the dynamics of developing a super library plan would be similar to the process followed in San Jose.
With the idea remaining in a conceptual phase, only the operational viability and the feasibility of the project are presently under consideration.
Another problem that the San Jose facility ran into was that the California university used the United State Library of Congress classification system for materials, while the city used the Dewey Decimal System.
The San Jose super library group resolved the matter by having the circulating materials section of the facility use the Dewey System, while the non-circulating resources are controlled under the LOC system.
The Carbon County super library committee members will continues to meet and discuss the project.
On Thursday, the members of the local committee plan to take a trip to the Utah Capitol and visit the new Salt Lake City Public Library's main branch.
The Salt Lake facility is a state-of-the-art library and is being operated partly as a community center.
The Salt Lake City library's main branch houses several retail shops to promote the use of the facility.