Library Now Only Open 3 Days a Week

Chewelah Public Library 2013 hours: Tuesday through Thursday, 12-6:30 p.m.

This winter is bringing big changes to the Chewelah library with reduced hours and the loss of one long time staff member.

The recent City of Chewelah budget crisis has had a huge impact on the library as the decision was made to stop funding the library.

The Chewelah City Library has been around for more than a hundred years. Since 2001, it has functioned as a partnership between the City of Chewelah and Libraries of Stevens County, which is a rural library district. In 2012, the City portion was about 50 percent of the total budget for the library. With the loss of that funding, in 2013, the Chewelah library will be on a very constrained budget.

To help the budget balance, the city administration eliminated the library clerk position. Jay Andrews has held this position for almost 22 years, under four different managers. Saying goodbye to Jay is a huge change for the library and for the community. To give everyone an opportunity to greet Jay, the library hosted an Open House in the last week of December. The Friends of the Library and community members showed great support with homebaked cookies. It was sad to say goodbye to Jay but also heartwarming to see the support and caring from the community. Libraries of Stevens County has asked Andrews to be an on-call substitute to fill in when we have staff absences.

Reduction in staff means a reduction in hours. From Jan. 1, Chewelah Library will be open only 3 days a week: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 12 noon to 6:30 p.m. It was really hard to decide which days to close the library. We looked at statistics showing our peak use times and at how we can best spread the available resources most effectively. Eventually we decided when the noon whistle blows, on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, the Chewelah library will be open.

One can still place holds and download electronic material from the website twenty-four hours a day. Your library card is also valid in any of the eight branches around the county. If there is a need for library services on the days Chewelah Library is closed, the other libraries will be open, with Loon Lake and Colville branches probably the closest.

Libraries of Stevens County remains committed to bringing you the best possible library services. We will endeavor to continue to be just as responsive to the community needs as we have in the past. The residents of the Chewelah area have valued their public library for more than a hundred years. Now more than ever your public library plays a key role in community building which goes way beyond a room of books, ensuring the health and prosperity of a community. In practical terms that translates to a vast range of activities: we bring free Internet access into the community, along with expert help in navigating the challenges of an online life; we offer books in multiple formats; movies; digital literacy; a space to meet for business or leisure. We will still be here for the community in some form.

In Chewelah Library one of our success stories is the weekly GED adult literacy coaching which we host in partnership with Rural Resources. With this program and other resources and services, the library offers people hope for better lives. We partner with them in the job search. A young man recently completed the flagger’s certification in the library, on a library Internet computer. With that certification he was able to get a well paying construction job. His joy in his achievement was something precious to witness. Without access to a library he would have still been sitting on the sidewalk, head on hands, without hope – the position the librarian found him in one Saturday morning.

We also realize that a library can be a key reason for people to stop off in Chewelah, impacting all other businesses and services in the community. Circulating around 6000 items a month, Chewelah Library has been the second busiest library in Stevens County, after Colville, the county seat. In 2012 we have seen on average 175-250 people pass through the doors every day.

A new agreement has been negotiated between the city of Chewelah and the library district which allows the library to continue to be housed in the current building, and thus to grant citizens of Chewelah access while more sustainable funding is sought.

In April 2013, the question of annexation will be on the ballot. This means that the citizens living within the city limits will get to vote on whether or not to join the Libraries of Stevens County Rural library district, for library purposes. This annexation is for library services only. The city will still keep all other departments.

Reducing hours and services of a library which serves multiple basic needs in a rural community is always hard. We hope that these changes will be a temporary measure for fiscal year 2013.

We are also grateful for the support and appreciation shown to the library during this time of change and hard decisions. This community has always valued its library services. We didn’t just receive cookies for our Open House but magazine subscriptions have been pledged, along with a magnificent single donation to Libraries of Stevens County specifically to buy a self-check out system for Chewelah Library. Thank you!

If there are any questions, please do let us know. We can be contacted in the library, through Library Manager Kate Skinner at 509-935-6805. Amanda Six Director, Libraries of Stevens County at 509-233-9621.

Submitted by Kate Skinner, Chewelah Library Manager