The reading of a 45-page report on the West Valley Branch Library has city officials thinking about checking West Valley City out of the Salt Lake County Library System.
The report says books at the West Valley branch are old and in disrepair; the building is too small; there are not enough shelves; service, equipment and parking are inadequate; copiers and other noisy machines are not segregated from reading areas; the children's area is poorly designed; and capital improvements and operations funding has not kept pace with needs."West Valley residents and taxpayers deserve library books and materials of a much higher quality than they are presently receiving," it concludes.
Assistant City Manager Karen S. Leftwich, who submitted the report to the City Council, said dissatisfaction with the branch library at 2880 W. 3650 South is growing. "We are definitely concerned, and we are looking at the option of withdrawing from the county system."
During the council's discussion of the issue, Mayor Brent F. Anderson said that if residents don't receive upgraded services from the county system, West Valley will look "very strongly" at establishing its own library.
With secession, the city would take along the $1.2 million per year in taxes it currently contributes to the county system's $7.9 million tax base. And it would seek title to the existing library assets in the city on grounds they were developed with the taxes paid by West Valley residents.
West Valley officials note that the main Whitmore Library and the Holladay and new Sandy branches are larger than the West Valley Branch, even though West Valley is the second largest city in the state and the largest city in the county's 16-branch system.
County library officials agreed to replace Sandy's Peterson branch with one almost three times its size after officials in that city angrily threatened secession, a settlement whose implications are not lost on anyone in the current dispute.
Salt Lake City operates its own library system, with a 120,000-square-foot main library and five branches that average between 10,000 and 12,000 square feet. Nancy Tessman, the system's deputy director, said the city stresses neighborhood access with an extensive central collection.
Murray, which also operates its own libraries, is planning to develop a single, 25,000-square-foot facility. Both Salt Lake City and Murray have reciprocal arrangements with the county for the sharing of services and reference materials.
Arguing that West Valley should have a much larger and higher-quality facility than its antiquated, 13,619-square-foot branch, Leftwich said, "We don't believe we are getting our money's worth."
According to her study, "It is generally accepted that a city serving a population of 100,000 people optimistically should have several small branches or one large main library."
While conceding that the West Valley Branch may not be adequate to meet all of the community's needs, Salt Lake County Library System Director Eileen B. Longsworth says improvements have been made and more are planned.
The West Valley library was given a new roof and carpeting and its book budget was doubled, she said. And the system intends to build a new branch in the Hunter area of West Valley in about three years.
Pointing to new facilities in Taylorsville, West Jordan and Riverton, and renovations in Kearns and Magna, Longsworth said the county has in recent years placed most of its emphasis and money on the rapidly growing southwest part of the Salt Lake Valley. With the exception of the Sandy library, there have been no new branches built on the east side since 1978, she said.
The threat of withdrawal is being taken seriously, and Longsworth said she hopes to persuade West Valley officials that the county system is efficient, cost-effective and providing the best service possible to residents.
"If they leave the system, their dollars won't go any farther than they are now," said Longsworth. "When Sandy City investigated its options, it found that it was in its best interest to stay with the Salt Lake County Library System."
According to West Valley's library report, Sandy's proposed withdrawal "came under condemnation from all directions, including the news media with very strong negative editorials."
If the city goes ahead with plans to develop its own library system, the report recommends:
- One large, comprehensive library rather than several small libraries.
- Careful selection of a site "to reconcile political pressures and practical desirable locations."
- Reciprocal agreements with other library systems.
- Use of a revenue bond for the initial cost (estimated to be about $4 million) with no increase in taxes.
West Valley officials are scheduled to tour the county system's Whitmore facilities at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and will discuss the issue again at the City Council study meeting March 5.
GRAPHIC\ Lacking libraries\
City Population Libraries Size(Square feet)
Salt Lake City 159,936 6 175,000
West Valley City 86,976 1 13,619
Sandy 75,058 1 *26,000
West Jordan 42,892 1 12,500
Murray 31,282 2 *25,000
South Jordan 12,220 1 10,710
Midvale 11,886 1 11,346
*Proposed or under construction
Salt Lake County libraries
circulated (sq. ft.)
Whitmore 581,209 48,854
West Valley 415,777 13,619
A.E. Peterson, Sandy 373,247 10,710
Kearns 354,612 11,346
West Jordan 346,678 12,500
Holladay 298,700 14,432
Park, Taylorsville-Bennion N/A 12,500
East Mill Creek 209,953 11,964
Magna 183,144 10,000
Calvin S. Smith, 810 E. 3300 S. 138,023 6,822
South Jordan 134,203 10,710
Ruth Vine Tyler, Midvale 128,339 11,346
South Salt Lake 67,859 6,393
Draper 32,863 834
Alta 531 480
Riverton N/A N/A