The change, approved by the library's board of trustees on Oct. 16, extends borrowing privileges to people, 18 and older, who work in Everett or own property or a business in the city.
For more than a decade, the library has charged people living outside Everett $25 per quarter or $100 annually for a household library card.
Everett Public Library Director Eileen Simmons said the fee was imposed after a reciprocal agreement between the Everett library and Sno-Isle Libraries ended in 1998. Before that, Simmons said, about 35 percent of Everett library users were Snohomish County residents living outside the city.
Documents needed to get a new regional card include, in addition to photo ID with address, a property tax stub, business license or pay stub or check.
At the end of 2011, the Everett library had 46,031 card holders, Simmons said. "There are 87 active paid cards. If I include ones that have expired within the past 12 months, that number increases to 212," she said Monday. The change took effect Thursday.
"Potential patrons have been interested in having this happen for awhile. The real push did come from the library board," Simmons said.
Larry Goulet is president of the five-member board that voted unanimously for the change.
"From the time I first came on the board, I didn't think this was right," Goulet said of the nonresident fee. "The main focus of the library should be use -- make it as available to as many people as possible," he said Wednesday. The board recognizes potential economic repercussions from the change, he added.
Goulet believes granting Everett Public Library cards to people who work or own property in the city is a matter of fairness.
"It was just not fair if you were working in Everett. At least it should be accessible to people who support the library with their taxes, people who have a business or work in the city," Goulet said. "You have to balance that with economic realities and the burden on staff. But my feeling is go ahead with this, and we will deal with the ramifications. It's the right thing to do."
Simmons presented the proposed change to the Everett City Council in September. She said Monday she doesn't expect any increase in the library's budget, regardless of how more access affects library use.
It was economic impact that brought an end to the reciprocal deal with Sno-Isle. "A disproportionate number of people belonged to Sno-Isle versus Everett. It was an economic decision. The volume of use was not equal," Goulet said.
Everett residents are free to get cards at Sno-Isle Libraries, which has 21 libraries in the region.
"Sno-Isle serves everyone -- basically anyone who lives within Snohomish or Island counties," said Ken Harvey, communications director at Sno-Isle Libraries. Residents of most cities in the two counties have voted to be annexed into Sno-Isle's library district. Stanwood is an exception, contracting with Sno-Isle for library service.
"As of 2011, we had about 42,000 individual borrowers from incorporated Everett or the unincorporated Everett area," Harvey said.
Although he lives in Everett and the $100 fee policy didn't apply to him, Sandy Thompson is pleased by the change. Once a member of the library's board of trustees, he is now involved with Friends of the Everett Public Library, a charitable group that supports its programs.
Thompson thinks the greatest impact from the change will be at the library's Evergreen Branch, which is near unincorporated areas many people consider to be south Everett. People with Everett mailing addresses have been denied library cards, he said.
"When I was on the board I was a big proponent of getting rid of that limitation. It seemed like an equity issue," Thompson said. "People working at the library couldn't get a library card. It's a move for the better."
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, firstname.lastname@example.org.
How to get new regional library card
Nonresidents of Everett are now eligible for a free Everett Public Library card if they can show that they work, own property or have a business within the city limits. For requirements and accepted identification to get a new regional card: www.epls.org/policies/ or call 425-257-8010.
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