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January 14, 2013
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Guest Column: eLearning Cafe idea for library is an effort to obtain free rent

As a former Washoe County Library Board member, including two terms as Chair, I was surprised to learn that the eLearning Cafe is still seeking to take over a portion of the Incline Branch Library under the guise of allowing the library to remain open additional hours.

Our library currently provides not only a collection of books and materials, augmented by the resources of collections throughout Washoe County, but also a safe and suitable place for programs, community meetings and studying. Its limited hours reflect the across-the-board cuts Washoe County has made in many services.

In April of 2011, I met with Kathryn Kelly about this issue, along with then-Commissioner John Breternitz, Library Director Arnie Maurins, Branch Manager Pam Rasmussen and Mr. Jim Clark. At that time, Commissioner Breternitz raised the issue of gifting public funds; that is, ceding space in a building constructed and operated at taxpayer expense, to a private entity.

I subsequently invited Ms. Kelly to educate herself about public-private partnerships and about operations in our library. The library manager proffered an invitation to the eLearning Cafe to participate in the Tahoe Library Coalition.

While the eLearning Cafe has a place in our community, its efforts to obtain what amounts to free rent at taxpayer expense has already caused an inordinate expenditure of time and energy by the library staff, the Library Board, and the county legal department.

Last week's Bonanza article illustrates that Ms. Kelly continues to have little understanding about the staffing needed to operate Incline library: the intricacies of mounting exhibits and conducting programs, the day-to-day tasks involved in managing a library staff and collection, the value of research assistance, the role of support staff and volunteers.

The Library Board receives periodic reports about volunteer contributions and appreciates that our library lacks the time, funding and staff to train and manage additional volunteers. Currently, volunteers constitute the lifeblood that helps keep books and a material shelved and in order, comprehends library standards and services and conveys an adult presence.

Our community understands that the library enterprise requires librarians and support staff, in addition to volunteers, to maintain the level of service we need and expect.

- Judith M. Simon is an Incline Village resident.

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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Jan 14, 2013 09:50PM Published Jan 14, 2013 09:50PM Copyright 2013 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.