Arcata Library Rocks The Economic Slump – February 9, 2012

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Kevin L. Hoover

Eye Editor

ARCATA – With budget dollars drying up, the Friends of the Arcata Library (FOAL) are filling the gap with people power. Ironically, the same dire economic conditions that have undermined support for the library are also stimulating increased use by patrons looking for cheap – free, actually – entertainment.

And with several lifetimes worth of interesting media on hand, the Arcata Branch Library has logged what Acting Librarian Charlene Stearns called “phenomenal” usage lately. On one recent day, more than 600 items were checked out.

Friends of the Arcata Library enjoy delicious snacks. KLH | Eye

At its monthly meeting in January, a dozen or so FOAL members met in the Library Conference Room to take stock and plan ahead.

Routine matters include weeding out old books, clearing out the back room and finding a replacement for the recycling bin that disappeared when ACRC shut down.

From book sales and fundraisers, the group has more than $3,000 in the bank. Funds are used to acquire media and support programs at the Library.

The biggest issue right now is replacing longtime Arcata Librarian Maggie Nystrom, who recently retired. Nystrom had continued on in an hourly capacity for several weeks, to help with continuity. But now she is gone and Library supporters are wondering about its prospects for fresh leadership.

County Librarian Victor Zazueta, who will hire Nystrom’s successor, explained. He said that after 38 years with the Humboldt County Library, she had become a “supervising librarian” at the top of the pay scale.

Her departure has triggered a review and reduction of the position, which will no longer include supervisorial duties The Humboldt County Public Employees Association had asked for a consultation.

That done, it will take a month or so to post the position and another month to process applications. “I’ll move it as fast as I can,” Zazueta said.

In the interim, he said, “Arcata Library will remain the same. None of the hours or services will change.”

Stearns received a round of applause for helping maintain stability at the Library as Nystrom transitioned out.

Recent state budget cuts ended funding for interlibrary loans among Humboldt, Butte and Shasta counties. With handling and shipping costs, such transfers can cost an astounding $45 each. Last year in Humboldt, there were 1,500 such loans out of a total circulation of 697,000.

A solution may be at hand in a pilot program for which Zazueto was to seek Board of Supervisors’ approval this week. Using a $50,000 Library Services and Technology Act grant, participating libraries will purchase and loan out 16 Kindle Touches pre-loaded with the desired interlibrary content.

“The electronic method is the best for that,” Zazueta said. The Kindles will be registered with Amazon, which will use digital rights management technology to regulate the content.

The Friends of the Arcata Library meet monthly, and are planning a quilt raffle and musical benefit event. Meetings feature delicious refreshments, including chocolate chip cookies and coffee. For more information, call (707) 822-5954.