Wednesday, May 17, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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System's backers try to read the future

Times Snohomish County Bureau


The Sno-Isle Libraries system is planning for the next 20 years through community meetings in Snohomish and Island counties. The final meetings will be held over the next three weeks. For more information or to complete an online survey, go to

Today: Cathcart Elementary School, 7 p.m.

Thursday: Brier Library, 7 p.m.

Tuesday: Snohomish Library, 7 p.m.

Next Wednesday: Gold Bar City Hall, 7 p.m.

May 25: Mill Creek Library, 7 p.m.

May 31: Lynnwood Library, 7 p.m.

June 5: Sultan Library, 7 p.m.

June 6: Mukilteo Library, 7 p.m.

Patrons of Sno-Isle Libraries checked out 7.3 million items last year.

If trends and the region's growth continue, in 20 years those using the public library system serving Snohomish and Island counties could be checking out more than 20 million books, magazines, DVDs and whatever else may be invented by 2026, say library officials.

The libraries are planning for that growth through public meetings about what patrons want in buildings and services. At the same time, the Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation, a private fundraising organization that supports the 20-branch system, is expanding its board of directors and preparing to launch a $1 million endowment campaign to support the libraries' collections.

In the past month, library officials have held 16 of 24 planned meetings around Snohomish and Island counties. What they've heard so far is that people want library services close to home and favor expanded services for teens.

"With so many two-income families, we're hearing that teens just don't have a place to go after school. People are asking us to help teens spend time constructively and in a way that's interesting and meaningful to them," said Mary Kelly, a spokeswoman for Sno-Isle Libraries.

Many communities also are concerned about space. The Lake Stevens Library is so crowded that children's story time is held before the library opens. Marysville had 360,000 user visits at its library last year and may need a second library in a decade, Kelly said.

With the two-county population expected to grow from about 680,000 to around 1 million in 2026, communities such as Maltby, Cathcart, Gold Bar and Camano Island may want libraries of their own, she said.

Homeowners in the two counties support the libraries through property taxes. People living within library service areas currently pay $44 annually per $100,000 of assessed value. Construction bond measures for buildings and initial library materials go before voters in the local communities.

To increase representation from the growing region, the Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation is expanding its board from five directors to 15 in the next two years. It hopes an expanded board also can increase fundraising effectiveness, said Karri Matau, the fund development coordinator for the foundation.

On Friday, the foundation plans to launch its $1 million endowment campaign with a $50,000 donation from the families of Mark and Brad Nysether, the owners of Everett-based Sea-Dog, a marine-hardware supplier. The donation, made in honor of their parents, Eldon and Shirley Nysether, will be used to expand the libraries' Pacific Northwest collections, library officials said.

The foundation hopes to secure 19 other $50,000 donations to create an endowment whose interest can be used to buy library materials.

Sno-Isle Libraries director Jonalyn Woolf-Ivory said residents are telling Sno-Isle that they want the libraries to be like community living rooms, where people could meet, talk and share information.

She noted that library planners 10 years ago did not foresee the rise of the Internet or its uses in spreading information.

As they plan for the next 20 years, she said, "we hope the public will want to invest in the libraries' future — whatever that future looks like."

Lynn Thompson: 425-745-7807 or

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company


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