With renewed millions in tax flow, library system has ambitious plans | TheUnion.com

With renewed millions in tax flow, library system has ambitious plans

John HartSteve Johnson of Grass Valley and Emma Farrell of Alta Sierra scan the bookshelves at the Grass Valley Library on Thursday afternoon.
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When it comes to Nevada County libraries, more of the same is apparently exactly what local residents want.

When nearly 77 percent of voters chose to approve the continuation of a one-eighth-cent sales tax in November, it was a sign that they did indeed want the status quo.

Nearly two months after approving Measure C, plans for increasing services as a result of the continuing tax are beginning to take shape, said Mary Ann Trygg, interim county librarian.

There are plans to bring in special guest speakers and events for Chinese New Year, with more family and children’s programming next month. In April, which is National Poetry Month, noted folk singer/songwriter and poet Utah Phillips will hold poetry writing sessions.

Because of the sales tax, which is dependent on revenues generated throughout the year, the library system will continue to reap an additional $1 million in revenues until 2018, library officials said.

For a library system with a $2 million annual budget, the tax is vital.

Without voter approval, Trygg said, those perks, as well as libraries open as much as 56 hours a week, would be in peril.

So the library system begins 2003 with a renewed sense of purpose, some plans for expansion and a new county librarian, Steve Fjeldsted, who takes office in February. (See our accompanying story).

In addition to boosting the collections at the libraries in Nevada City, Grass Valley and Truckee, Trygg said there are discussions to increase the hours at the Foley historical library and add a satellite branch on the San Juan Ridge.

Those plans will be closely scrutinized by Fjeldsted, who takes over for the departed Francisco Pinneli Feb. 3.

Fjeldsted, head of the Kings County library system southwest of Fresno, said he understands what it’s like to live in a community that supports its library systems with additional financial resources. Though he works in the Kings County seat of Hanford, Fjeldsted lives in Fresno County, where voters there have consistently supported a similar eighth-cent sales tax increase to fund library services.

“I know what it’s like with that protective measure and what it’s like without, and it’s a world of difference,” said the librarian, whose experience includes working as Madera County’s library director, where the library budget comes straight from the county general fund, and in Kings County, where the library system’s money comes from a special district.

“I feel very honored and very pleased that Nevada County has such high regard for its libraries,” he said.

Trygg said she was happily surprised at just how much residents love their libraries.

“We were just hoping that people were seeing the benefits and we didn’t really know what was going to happen. We just hoped people respected what we were doing,” she said.

In the 2001-02 fiscal year, $295,000 was spent on books countywide, Trygg said. There’s only $560,000 in the general fund for the library alone.

With the continuation of the sales tax comes an independent push for a grant to expand the Grass Valley library branch. The library is seeking $1.9 million to pay for a $3 million project to expand the library, which is more than six decades old, from 6,000 to 13,000 square feet. In part, the new materials provided by the library tax measure makes the expansion necessary.

“Right now, spacewise, we have everything we can possibly hold in our library,” said branch manager Judy Mariuz.

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