Library Hack: Whose Library Is It Anyway?

Posted on November 12, 2014 at 6:00 am

by Jane Baker

When I first came to work at the library nearly three years ago, many of my friends thought I was crazy.

“Libraries are dead,” some said, or, “they have no funding.”

“I didn’t know the County had a library,” said others.

Several community members commented, “the library is Spokane’s best kept secret.”

As the new Communication Manager for the Spokane County Library District, I clearly had a lot of communicating about the library to do.

The Spokane area is fortunate to have 17 very-much-alive libraries, but here’s where it gets tricky. There are ten public libraries in the Spokane County Library District, six in the Spokane Public Library System, and one in Liberty Lake, the Liberty Lake Municipal Library (this writing doesn’t include school or organizational libraries in the region). So when I’m asked questions like, “Why doesn’t my library card work at all libraries around Spokane” and “didn’t we just vote for the library in the last election?” the answer often includes explaining the different library systems.

Library Hack: Whose Library Is It Anyway? by Jane Baker | Spokane County Library District

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Spokane County Library District was created by the voters and has been operating since 1943 as a junior taxing district. This means that a portion of County property taxes paid by residents in our service area are used to fund the library. Even though “Spokane County” is part of the name, the Library District is separate from the County government, although the County Commissioners do have say in who is appointed to the District’s Board of Trustees. In contrast, Spokane Public Library and Liberty Lake Library are departments of their respective cities. If you live outside of the city limits of the City of Spokane or the City of Liberty Lake, but in Spokane County, then you are part of the service area of the Spokane County Library District.

Oh, why can’t we all just get along? The good news is, we do!  The Spokane County Library District has reciprocal agreements with both other systems. These agreements allow people who live in the Cities of Spokane and Liberty Lake to get a library card from our Library District, and vice versa. There are some restrictions with these free reciprocal library cards, mostly on remote access to digital resources due to vendors. The Library District also offers the option of a paid non-resident library card.

Library Hack: Whose Library Is It Anyway? by Jane Baker | Spokane County Library District

Spokane County Library District and Spokane Public Library collaborate in many other ways, as well. Recently, a new website, was created in partnership to support local businesses. This site helps with business plans, research, and marketing for businesses. The Libraries, along with Auntie’s Book Store, also present Spokane Is Reading every fall. Spokane Is Reading is a community read designed to encourage reading throughout the region, and is one of the longest-running community reads in the State of Washington.

Libraries are busy places. Just last year, 1,387,652 people came through the doors of Spokane County Libraries. That’s 137,240 more than attended events at the Spokane Arena, INB, Fairgrounds, and Convention Center combined. In September, our mailing of fall programs under the theme, Create, filled the classes so quickly that additional classes were added to the schedule (if you missed getting in on any of our Create series, wait until you see what we have planned for spring!).

While the majority of funding for the Library District comes from property taxes, the District also writes grants for additional programs. For example, the District recently was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for The Big Read. The Big Read is a community-wide reading program which encourages reading and arts participation by diverse audiences. The entire month of February will offer many free programs for our community, thanks to this grant.

The Libraries in the Spokane area are also very fortunate to have the support of groups of dedicated volunteers called the Friends of the Library. These fine folks raise money, mostly through used book sales and other events, to help support programs. Our Friends contribute to special programming and book discussion groups, as well as summer reading and other special events.

The Spokane County Library District is alive and well at our ten locations county-wide. While Spokane library systems aren’t always the sexiest topic at happy hour, the secret is out. Stop in and check out!

Jane Baker