While Utah County cities have made a good start, the library systems in the county still face many challenges, says the state library director.
"One problem Utah County has is that many individuals live outside of a city and are really only served by a bookmobile service," said Amy Owen, director of the state library division of the Department of Community and Economic Development."There is a need for better support and coordination from existing library services in many areas throughout the county and better service to those residents who live outside the boundaries of a city that currently supports a public library," she said.
And while libraries in the county are trying to meet the diverse needs of a growing population, they are forced to squeeze new programs and building projects into already tight budgets.
Linda Collard, head librarian of the Payson City Library, said she is contented. "Right now we feel like we are in a real comfortable place with plenty of room for expansion," Collard said, recalling the library's move to the then-new Payson City Center six years ago.
"Now we feel like we can hold enough books for this size of a community and take care of the population for quite awhile."
However, Collard appears to be a minority in Utah County. Other library officials are singing the budgetary blues and bemoaning a lack of adequate space and funding.
"There just isn't the money to do some of the things we think we should, but we have to make do with what we have," said Celia Tomlin, director of the American Fork Public Library.
Every library has a budget, but any budget is never enough, she said.
American Fork's biggest problem is lack of study space for students who use the library in the evenings. Tomlin said an average of 60 to 70 students come in nightly to use the library, which seats only 35.
"It doesn't promote a real library atmosphere," she said. "The public library serves the whole community and can't focus on one age group."
While Springville's public library was designed to handle 20 years of growth, the city has outgrown it in half the time, says library director Paula Jones. "We are really pressed for room. When the library was built, all we had were books and rec-ords. Now we have video cassettes, films, pictures and a production center. We have to keep up with the changes."
In the past, Springville officials have given generous financial support to the library, but that ended with budget crunches, Jones said. "We hope more funds will be available next year so we can expand. We have to one way or another. How depends on the funds."
Marilyn Ashby, head librarian of the Spanish Fork Public Library, agreed. "It is really hard with the price of books to keep the collection at the level it is. The library is used a lot, but we have kind of kept the collection upgraded. Every library could use more money."
Lehi and its library faces similar challenges, said head librarian Janeen Watkins. "We can't offer a lot of programs because we don't have the space to do so. Every time we are up for budget, we have to prove by using facts and figures what our needs are and why we need extra money."
The Pleasant Grove City Library is housed in a 100-year-old building that library director Jean Gifford said is cozy but at times so full children sit on the floor to read.
The space will be expanded to eight times the present size when the city moves into its new library, scheduled to open June 1.
Pleasant Grove Council member Lloyd Ash, who doubles as the library project chairman, says the library will be paid for the day it opens because of grants and generous donations from those in the community.
Provo Public Library is also getting ready for more elbow room. The city's yet-to-be-constructed building will feature 28,000 square feet more than double the space of Provo's current library, located in the same downtown building for 49 years.
"This library was designed for a community of 17,000, and Provo is now at 80,000," said library director Larry Hortin. The library was remodeled in 1939 but never expanded to meet population growth, he added.
Provo has struggled to fund the building project, but with donations, fund-raisers, a federal grant and a bond issue, the city will finally hold groundbreaking ceremonies April 18.
In Orem, the city's library facility is only 18 years old and already space is "getting kind of tight," said Dick Beeson, Orem library director.
His library's circulation is more than 10 times the city's population 700,000 items to 62,000 residents and that is phenomenal circulation in the library world, Beeson said.
Keeping funding efforts in pace with increasing population rates is not the only problem libraries face. They must also work to stay in the mainstream of today's technical world.
Provo, Orem and American Fork libraries are currently operating on automated computer systems, which can save a library time and money. Most of the other cities throughout the county hope to see automation at work in their libraries in the near future.
Owen, who promotes the improvement of library services throughout the state, said Utah law provides for two types of public libraries either a city or county library service.
If Utah County were to tax its residents at the same rate Weber County taxes for library services, the county would have about $750,000 to $1 million more to spend on libraries under the county system, she said.
Utah County currently has a large number of independent city libraries with a county bookmobile service but nothing more. A number of counties in the state including Weber, Davis, Uintah, Wasatch, Grand, Washington and Emery counties provide a traditional public library with branches and a bookmobile.
Unlike the local city system being used, the county-oriented service also eliminates non-resident borrower fees, giving every county resident access to any library throughout the county.
Under the current city library service, funds come from each city's tax base. How much money a certified tax rate yields depends on the base of the taxing jurisdiction, meaning that money availability coincides with the average wealth of city residents.
If Utah County were to implement a county-oriented service, large-city libraries may find finances to be a little less than current standards, while smaller cities would see an increase in available funds. A move would require an accompanying tax increase set by the county commission.