Task A One: Conversations about Library Services

Library districting efforts are about improving current public library service. In some cases, public library service is non-existent, because there is no public library that is easily accessible. In other cases, libraries must charge an annual use fee for certain patrons who do not live in the county. And sometimes libraries do not have the tax base they need to provide adequate library service. In any of these examples, library districts may help. A districting effort that consolidates two or more libraries can often create better library service by eliminating duplication of services and creating economies of scale.

You and others in the community may feel the need to improve library service, but you should assess public interest. You might think of public library service as a public good, but others in the community may not feel this way. This is particularly true when tax dollars are involved.

Informal conversations about improving library service should become more deliberate. Talk about library service with your friends or in the groups to which you belong. Do other people join in the conversation, or is the subject quickly changed? Typically if there is a perceived need, informal contacts will lead to the telling of "horror stories" about the lack of access to library service or about inadequate service. These people will often volunteer to help you.

From the beginning, all libraries and government officials within the proposed district area should be kept informed about the assessment process. This includes library boards, library staff, city councils and/or county commissioners. Objections or even indifference from any of these groups could be fatal to the districting process. If at all possible, encourage these people (particularly board members) to take a leading role in the districting efforts.

Find out about the history of library services in your area. If there is no library now, was there ever a library? If so, why did it close? If there is a library, is there anything in its history that would indicate problems for a districting effort? Is there any history of antagonism among libraries in the area?