OROVILLE – Julie Ashmore appeared before the Oroville City Council at their Tuesday, Sept. 7 meeting to discuss various funding schemes for a new library building.
“As you know there has been an effort to get a new Oroville library… it has only been since last January that we have been submitting funding proposals,” said Ashmore, who was present to ask approval of a funding application to the state.
“We have been looking at what we can do in this application that can make this library so it meets the specific needs of the community. We are trying to get it as a line item on the state’s capital budget and what they are really looking at is how we can do some job creation,” she said.
Ashmore said the state would look more generously at a new library if more jobs were created than just constructing the building. She said since the area had a high poverty and high illiteracy rate that families were in real need of literacy education and that could create additional jobs at the library and help make those adults who receive the services become more employable.
“If we offer family literacy services in the new building, then there is a higher chance to find jobs,” she said. “We are trying to create something that is not your ‘average Joe library’ and to offer more than just a library which we do now.”
Ashmore said the library could offer family literacy services like adult education, parent education, early childhood education and parent-child interaction education.
“We want to be able to say, ‘Yes we’re a library, but we’re rural… the library offers more to meet the community needs.’ We now have a Head Start program with a real long waiting list that we could help to shorten,” she said.
There were several questions about where these services would be located within the library and if they would create permanent jobs and how they would be funded.
“Parent literacy education could be done with home visits or community visitation. For the early childhood education piece it could work together in the children’s section of the library,” Ashmore said.
“It looks to me like you’ve got the cart before the horse in hiring these people,” said Councilman Walt Hart III.
“Some of our funders want to know what kind of jobs we can create now, in the short term. It is more of a conceptual thing, we won’t write these grants for literacy services until after we get the funds for the building,” said Ashmore.
Hart asked if the jobs funding was ongoing and where the money would come from after the initial grants were exhausted.
“They would be soft-funded and new grants would have to be secured. There is no job security unless we get a good relationship with a foundation,” Ashmore said.
Kathy Jones, Oroville’s city clerk, asked about the new buildings footprint and where the extra parking for a new building was going to be located. She expressed her hope that Madeline Wells Park in back of the library be maintained at least at its present size. She advised Ashmore to consider writing in funding for additional parking spaces should they need to be purchased because of a larger building and more services being offered as required my current city codes.
“Parking with expanded use would have to be addressed, buy offsite parking or eat up the park. More parking is required of all new construction. The park is an integral part of so many community activities I’d hate to see it cut back even if the library had to go two stories,” said Jones.
“If we need to add dollars for parking now is the time to do so,” Ashmore agreed.
There was also some concern about the additional insurance, upkeep and maintenance that will be involved in a newer and larger building. Councilman Tony Keopke said he worried about taxing the people more and that he felt Oroville’s tax base might go down, pointing to two businesses that had close recently.
Ellie Braman, who works at the Oroville Visitor Information Center and is with the Friends of the Library disagreed with Keopke’s assessment.
“With all the people we saw at the visitor center this summer and the new resorts I can’t see the tax base going anywhere but up,” said Braman.
The council gave their okay to make an application for funding for a new library building with the added incentive of creating new jobs, while offering family literacy services.