INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. - The eLearning Cafe has submitted a proposal to the Washoe County Library Board of Trustees to consider housing its learning center within the Incline Village Library in an effort the cafe's founder says will keep the local library open much longer each week without increasing operating costs.
County Library administrators, however, have been less than enthusiastic about the venture, which is expected to be addressed at the Wednesday, Jan. 16, Washoe County Library board meeting in Reno.
Incline resident Kathryn Kelly founded eLearning Cafes Inc. as a Nevada nonprofit educational enterprise in 2011. She said the cafe has served locals of all ages and has provided courses for roughly one third of Incline Village school-age students, many of whom have taken Advanced Placement high school or college credit courses not available in local schools.
At the cafe, online courses are offered by different organizations and vary in price. Course fees are passed on to the student, depending on his or her ability to pay.
"I don't ever want to turn anybody away because they can't pay," Kelly said.
But there lies part of the current problem, Kelly said, as the eLearning Cafe is located in rented spaces at the Raley's Center.
"A lot of grant money goes to paying rent, rent (payments) which would go away if we were in the library," said Kelly, adding that grant money could then be applied more to helping students with course costs.
The Incline Village Library - the newest branch within the county system - is a 10,600-square-foot facility with a collection of books, music, magazines and other materials, as well as computer terminals and computers.
With a wooden beamed vaulted ceiling, a two-sided fireplace, a coffee bar and a community meeting room, the library provides an ideal environment for learning and socializing, two areas central to the eLearning Cafe's success, Kelly said. The library's location on Alder Avenue, within walking distance of Incline High School, also is ideal.
Kelly has submitted a proposal to the Washoe County Board of Trustees, requesting a one-year contract that would allow the cafe to use the back, west end of the library, with the use of four of the eight desks with computer terminals.
According to the proposal, cafe staff would furnish its own computers and learning materials, and would provide up to eight security cameras. The area would be staffed with cafe personnel, volunteers and tutors.
Currently, two library employees must be on site when people are present in the library, said Arnold Maurins, director of the Washoe County Library System.
As part of Kelly's proposal, eLearning staff and volunteers would undergo training to assist librarians in library duties. With additional staffing and security cameras, Kelly said sees no reason why one librarian with ample assistance would not suffice, allowing for the library to stay open as long as 70 hours a week, up from the current 30, at no additional cost to the county.
But it's not that simple, said Maurins. First, the Washoe County District Attorney's Office has to determine what authority the library has under Nevada state law before the Washoe County Board of Trustees can rule on the proposal, he said.
"It's not just about dealing with isolated proposals like Ms. Kelly's," Maurins said. "We can't negotiate with just one party."
Library staffing deals with many issues, he added, including labor laws.
"Volunteers are wonderful. We value them greatly, but they cannot be used to expand hours at a facility," Maurins said. "Everybody wants to see the library open more hours, but we have to do it in ways that are legally permissible."
Despite this, Kelly is undaunted. She said she would like to see eLearning Cafes in all the Washoe County Libraries to benefit the people of Nevada, considering the state is ranked as one of the lowest in the nation in education.
"It's about outcomes," she said.
Kelly is circulating a petition for support of the eLearning Cafe being allowed in the Incline Village Library. It can be accessed via the following shortened link: chn.ge/XOglt7.