Washington Co. Closes 3 Libraries, Cuts Hours At 6 Others

LAKE ELMO, Minn. (WCCO) — Some families in the east metro may find it harder to get to the library this year.

The Washington County Library System is starting off 2012 with three fewer branches, and the six remaining library branches are now closed two days a week to save money.

“We had to make some very difficult decisions,” said Joseph Manion, the libraries public services manager for Washington County. “We have lost almost half a million dollars because of reductions in state aid to county government. So, taking a look at the data, we had some small branches doing less than one percent of our business altogether.”

As a result, Washington County closed their Marine and Newport branches and shut down the remaining branches on Sundays and Mondays.

Lake Elmo opted out of the county system, taking its approximate $260,000 in tax revenue to open its own city library, and closing its Rosalie E. Wahl Library. Washington County Libraries off said the Lake Elmo location only received about 11 customers an hour, compared to the 145 visitors an hour at the main Woodbury location.

Sharon Engdahl of Lake Elmo now drives to the R.H. Stafford Branch Library in Woodbury to check out her books, and said she wishes libraries would be a bigger priority.

“I think it’s a real loss, they are going to try to open it, just the city of Lake Elmo, run it largely with volunteers which will be difficult,” said Engdahl.

Manion said he’s fielded calls of disappointment.

“They see our signage and they call up and go and say this really saddens me,” said Manion. “We are really sad too, not to be here on those days and give the services we’d like to give.”

Moving crews packed up the last of the books and shelves from Lake Elmo’s library on Tuesday, even taking down the sign out front.

“So we have to pay the $60 fee if we want to use any Washington County libraries,” said Tina Nichols, who regularly takes her two year old son Cody to the Stillwater branch. “We have been coming to the library before he could even walk, you know, as a mother you think are doing the right thing by letting them experience of library.”

Manion said part of that experience has changed and now the library must try and maintain its traditional structure while still embracing the future. He cites exponential growth in digital downloads, with an 11 percent rise in e-book downloads in the past year, a demand that can help compensate for cutbacks.

“It’s a phenomena. The e-book has been a preferred choice among a lot of people these days,” said Manion.

To offer continued access to areas now without a library, the system installed kiosks where customers order books from a computer, and then and pick up and return in lockers at Hugo City Hall, the Marine on St. Croix City Hall and Community Library and the Newport Community Library.  Manion said he hopes the cutbacks aren’t permanent. The Washington County library system will ask the county to restore its hours next year.

Lake Elmo residents who purchase a Washington County library card for $60 can have one card per household reimbursed by the city. You can find more information here.

Lake Elmo has an interim library at the Lake Elmo Regional Art Center at Laverne Avenue North and 36th Street with limited hours, and hopes to open its own city library in the spring. Tuesday night, the city council will privately discuss a possible building purchase. You can find the latest information here.

Changes in Washington County library hours and locations

  • Brett

    OMG, I think that the world is coming to an end. 2012 anyone??

  • Kevin

    I didnt know Libraries were still around. What a waste of taxes….Do they sign out pagers?

  • Really?

    How about cutting the average pay of a “librarian” from $135K annually, down to 68K and eliminating 1/3 of the jobs instead. The the library could stay open the same hours, and still overpay a librarian.

    • Addy

      Where are you getting your data from?

      The 2010 ALA (American Library Association)-APA Salary Survey for Librarians in a Public or Academic institutions shows a mean of $60,734, median $55,883. The survey includes salaries of directors and high level managers.

      Did you know that a Master’s degree is required for librarians (in most libraries)? And that it has one of the lowest average annual incomes of all professional degrees?

    • Brett

      I nominate you to be the next County Commissioner!!! What a GREAT IDEA!! How come this has NEVER happened before??

    • The Analyst


  • jo

    Addy is correct. You can check out the salaries of librarians in Minnesota at http://extra.twincities.com/car/salaries/
    I am a librarian with an MLIS and 25 years of experience and, if I were lucky enough to be working full-time at my current position, I’d be making around $60,000/year.

  • peace

    It’s crazy that you need a masters degree to sit behind and desk and tell people to be quiet. Maybe they need to rethink what is needed to be a librarian. I bet there’s allot of people that could do a great job with just a high school education.

    • Addy

      Sigh….this is why libraries and librarians are so undervalued. Individuals tend to believe all librarians just sit at a reference desk all day. More likely that is just 2 hours of a librarians workday and the remainder of the time they are making the library function by providing additional services, access content, etc.

      While the below information is very general, I think it provides a basic summary of other functions librarians fill. “Five Things You Didn’t Know About Your Librarian” – Carrie Consalvi

      1. Librarians have Masters degrees! Librarians don’t spend all day organizing books, scanning bar codes, and shushing everyone (That is the job of librarian assistants). Your librarian is bursting at the sides with information services. He or she is trained to look critically at the world of information and organize it in a way that makes it most accessible to you. This involves keeping pace with changing technology, organizing information so that it is easy to find, polishing search skills, and getting the most accurate and well-rounded resources to you as part of your right to free speech and thought.

      2. Librarians do your work. Librarians are available for more than the occasional question, “Where is the bathroom?” and “Can I borrow this stapler?” They are trained to answer your most difficult research questions. For instance, if you have a huge project due for school in two days and you don’t know where to start, the Librarian can not only lead you to the best databases on your topic, but also point you to articles, books, and Internet information. If you are working on a business proposal for a product you’re marketing to China, your librarian can not only lead you to population statistics, but also trends and research. You can also find out how to make Swedish meatballs, the number of ants in the United States, or what the world record is for jumping on one leg. This is the most underestimated resource in the Library. It’s a librarian’s job to do your research!

      3. Librarians design. Librarians are becoming the best sources for finding and designing information on the Web. A major aspect of this process is creating websites that lead users to the best information available. Librarians are also working to create fully interactive websites for patrons. We want to help you wade through the misleading and worthless sites to the best sources.

      4. Librarians teach. Since librarians are on the cutting edge of technology, a major part of their job is to provide instructive presentations on information resources. At any given time, your library is hosting courses that teach computer or reading literacy, searching strategies, or even website design. I should also mention that Librarians value continuing education, so efforts are made to bring in prominent speakers and programs that further your community’s progress. The library opens it’s doors to activities, book clubs, tutoring, language courses, business meetings, cultural experiences, and other community events. The library is essentially a gathering place.

      5. Librarians protect. The number one goal for Librarians across the country is contributing to and protecting intellectual freedom. With the USA PATRIOT Act in full swing, Librarians have seen an increase in privacy violations and threats to your first amendment rights. Librarians keep no records of books you’ve borrowed, times you’ve used the internet, or preferences you’ve exhibited. This is to ensure that when the FBI asks, you are protected by default. They also make special efforts to provide materials that present all sides to arguments, and have procedures they follow when a resource is challenged. Every effort is made to allow you access to any information you want as well as protecting those same rights for your neighbor.

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