Library tax tale should have happy ending
There are only two countywide measures on next month’s general election ballot.
While those on both sides of the fence duke it out over a property rights claims initiative, the backers of Measure C, an eighth-of-a-cent sales tax for library services, are basking in their relative obscurity – and in the notion that the tax, which has been in place since 1998, has a good chance of being extended by voters.
“This is really important to our community, and especially to our children,” said Mary Ann Trygg, interim county librarian.
Trygg’s optimism about Measure C’s passage stems from the fact that everyone can see the benefits the extra money – about $1,250,000 a year – has provided for the county’s six libraries, two of which have opened since the library tax was initiated.
The tax has also paid for the addition of a children’s librarian and two assistants, and allowed each of the branches in Grass Valley, Nevada City and Truckee to operate every day except Sunday, while expanding the collections and upgrading technology.
Before the tax, Trygg points out, none of the libraries opened before noon on a business day, and there was no literacy program at any of the sites. Those living west of Grass Valley and in the south county had to travel miles to reach a branch.
“We wouldn’t have the Penn Valley and Bear River branches if this measure didn’t pass,” Trygg said.
The library system’s catalog has grown dramatically since passage of the tax, increasing by 50,000 volumes since the 1998-99 fiscal year to nearly 200,000 volumes. New books are constantly replacing old ones, Trygg said.
The money has also funded an after-school program, “Cafe Libros,” that includes poetry readings, craft workshops and other youth-friendly programs.
Unlike nearly every candidate seeking political office or the aforementioned Measure D, the Measure C library tax campaign soldiers on without organized opposition. The measure needs a two-thirds vote to win approval.
That it does is a testament to a very literate community, Trygg said, that is intent on educating its children.
As head children’s and young adult librarian at the county’s main library in Nevada City, Jennifer Sheffield spends much of her time fostering ties between tomorrow’s taxpayers and the schools they attend, constantly changing and altering the youth catalog to reflect evolving trends.
Her position was made possible by the sales tax increase.
“Really, helping the kids is the most important part of my job,” she said.
Sheffield is responsible for linking Nevada County schools’ curriculum to the services the library offers. The end result is an increased selection for young adults and high school students.
“Students need a way to connect to reading,” she said. “We need to find out what they want to read, instead of picking out what we think they should be reading.”
Sheffield said that many of those she’s met have agreed that the library tax is indeed a good thing.
“We haven’t had any complaints,” she said.
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