By Debra Smith Herald Writer
EVERETT — On any given day, about half the people who walk into the Evergreen Branch of the Everett Public Library wanting a library card leave without one.
The reason: They don’t live here.
Working, going to school and even owning property within the city of Everett isn’t enough.
That may change. The Everett Public Library Board is considering letting people have library cards who own property or work in the city.
“There’s little doubt that it will happen,” said Larry Goulet, library board president. “We have to first examine the impact.”
The board would have to sort out how the library might handle more users.
The library’s satellite Evergreen Branch in south Everett is already bursting its bindings. If more people had library cards, the smaller branch would feel the impact, he said.
“That branch is already so busy,” Goulet said. “It’s inadequate for the area and there is no money right now to expand.”
Right now, only people who have their primary residence within the city limits can obtain a free library card.
It didn’t use to be that way. Until 1999, Everett and the Sno-Isle Regional Library System maintained a reciprocal borrowing agreement.
Sno-Isle serves more than 750,000 people at 21 different libraries across Snohomish and Island counties, including unincorporated areas.
Sno-Isle paid Everett an annual fee because far more people outside of Everett used the Everett Public Library than the other way around.
Before the agreement expired, 35 percent of the people who used Everett’s two libraries lived some place else.
That agreement came to an end when Sno-Isle’s board decided it no longer wanted to pay.
Now, people outside of Everett who want access to its two libraries must pay a $100 annual fee.
So why do so many people outside the city apply for an Everett library card?
It’s partly confusion and partly a desire for convenience.
Not everyone with an Everett mailing address lives within the city’s boundaries, said Eileen Simmons, Everett Public Library director.
Some children who live in a different city attend Everett public schools and vice-versa because of the way school district lines are drawn.
For people who live just south of the city’s border, Everett’s Evergreen Branch is the closest library. The closest Sno-Isle branches are in Mill Creek and Mukilteo.
Simmons supports access to libraries for all but she has concerns about how to implement the plan.
“I don’t think it would be possible to serve the whole county with our current resources or we wouldn’t serve them well,” she said. “It would dilute what residents have access to.”
Expanding access could mean extended wait times for popular books and other materials. Now, Everett often has a shorter wait time for popular books than Sno-Isle libraries. Everett’s computers with Internet access are nearly always in use.
Also, the library would need a fair, simple way for people to prove they work within city limits. Some pay stubs don’t list a local address.
Despite the obstacles, the library board supports more access to Everett libraries, board president Goulet said.
“The feeling of the board is that if you have property or a business in Everett, you are already paying into the tax system and should have access,” he said.
The library may be able to try opening up more access incrementally, he said.
The library board is the only city board that empowers members to make policy decisions. That means this decision will ultimately be made by its members, not by City Council or the city’s administration.
Debra Smith: 425-339-3197; firstname.lastname@example.org.