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Glenn Hendrick: Why I’m Voting Yes for the Library

  • Written by Glenn Hendrick

Like many islanders (and especially property owners), I experienced some pretty intense sticker shock at the $20,000,000 estimated cost of the new Library on Spring Street. It was enough to stop me in my tracks, despite being someone who consistently votes progressive. Does a small rural community really need such an expensive new facility, especially when it will increase our property taxes during what is already a harsh economic time? After some serious consideration, and with help from the Library’s very informative Building Project page (https://www.sjlib.org/library-building-project/), I have decided to vote yes on the library.

Here’s why:

$20,000,000 is a lot of money (only $12,000,000 of which would be paid through taxes) but construction costs are super high now in general and are unlikely to come back down. In fact, they might just continue to get more expensive as time goes on, so it makes sense to build now. If you want to see the line items, you can check out the whole plan at https://www.sjlib.org/library-building-project/

This might not feel like the time to take on a big financial burden as taxpayers, but the reality is that it’s a 20-year plan to pay $12,000,000 and most property owners would only pay $45-$85 per year in additional taxes. That’s not really that much… like 10 fancy coffee drinks? A few streaming service subscriptions? Per year?

The old building on the site is going to have to be torn down no matter who buys the property, so if the Library doesn’t do it someone else will. And the Library has a really great plan for reusing and recycling as much of the old building material as possible, which probably won’t be the case for anyone else buying it.

Why move in the first place? One thing I’ve heard from folks on this issue is that our current library feels adequate to our needs already: “There’s hardly ever anyone in there anyway!” But what if the Library were different? Would you use it more? Think about why you might not use the library very much now, and how an improved library would change your experience: What if there were more rooms to do office work in, where you could talk to a coworker without disturbing other people? What if your small business or nonprofit or community group could use a room for meetings or activities? What if the Library had room for more new books that you could peruse and be inspired by? What if the kids area was separated from the main area, so the whole space was quieter and more inviting, and kids could still have fun in a safe place after school? Besides, what about everyone who sits in their cars in the parking lot using the internet, whether for lack of workspace inside or for a desire for privacy? I see lots of people doing this, so there’s definitely a need there.

This is our chance to build what this island has needed for a long time, and will continue to need into the future: a multi-use community center for people of all ages, where islanders can gather for free, find inspiration, access inspirational and educational resources, have fun, and get reliable access to fast internet (something a lot of people still don’t have at home). We don’t have a rec center, an arcade, or really anywhere for kids to go after school except the library. We are losing all of our cafes and restaurants where people could hang out and use the internet. We have fewer common spaces than ever. With so many beloved businesses closing, people are worried for the character and integrity of our town. I think now is actually the perfect time to invest in this project, because it’s an investment in our future as a community. We may not be Seattle, but we deserve an awesome library that will support all islanders for many, many years to come.

Glenn Hendrick