Email to the Editor: Children's Services at Enumclaw Library Far Outshines KCLS

Charles Sansone writes about his research into the resources that King County Library System makes available at its libraries and how in some cases, it isn't necessarily better at providing services than the Enumclaw city library.

In the beginning, I favored annexing despite the clumsily undemocratic way the Mayor; with presumed Council approval initiated this long Saga. BUT, shouldn't I go and study these libraries and see what each had to offer? I selected six: two larger and four smaller units. I gradually changed my position as a result of a great many hours visiting six different KCLS Libraries in South King County. I was always open as to who I was and why I was in their library. I had many pleasant and highly informative talks with KCLS staff. They were most gracious. The patrons were much like those at the Enumclaw Library. This was true of children, pre-school age and older. There must have been some differences you say. Of course, the difference in size of libraries for the city they served was obvious, as was the age of the buildings and lay out. There were more computers in the larger libraries, then our Enumclaw library but not in the smaller ones. Also differences were noted in total number of books, periodicals, visual and auditory equipment, and so forth. BUT it was clearly obvious that it was NOT all in favor of KCLS.

I was shocked how few materials were available to children in three of the libraries I visited. The Enumclaw Children's section far, far outshines what I saw in those libraries. It was depressing. The warmth and inviting atmosphere that tells the visitor this is a children's area simply wasn't present. I know number crunchers and hard nose "give me the facts men" will pounce on this as not businesslike. BUT to the children using the facility, to parents, and to those who work with children, they will all recognize and appreciate what I am offering. This is "my area of peace" with the magic of "Winnie's Two Hundred Acre Forest" or "Charlotte's Web" Fantasy. This is MY nook.

All of the children's areas were safe, clean and acceptable. But only two of the six passed the "Browse" test. I simply did not see as many children pulling books off shelves, skimming pages, replacing the book moving along, repeating the viewing and finally selecting a book or magazine and sitting down and reading page after page. I am not a children's psychologist or a trained children's librarian. BUT, I know when a child is at peace and content with the surroundings, have found the book or item of his/her choice, and want to enjoy it. This did happen in the KCLS libraries I visited, BUT I witnessed it far more often in the children's unique area of the Enumclaw Library. PLEASE DON'T TAKE MY WORD FOR IT. GO AND SEE FOR YOURSELF. But it will take time and several visits perhaps, but it is worth it!

Bigger KCLS libraries in bigger cities did indeed offer more. But here's the rub. KCLS has multiple copies of books and magazines, but they simply don't exist in each and every library in the system. Who decides which library gets the FULL SHARE and which gets less? Is it size of population, or luck of the draw? The fact is some KCLS libraries have a fuller collection while others must submit a request to another KCLS library. If a requested item is not being used, it will be delivered in a day or two. But, if it is already checked out, the request is placed on hold until returned. It will then be processed and placed in the delivery system for you.

You may say that happens here in Enumclaw. Yes, it does indeed. But such occurrences are less frequent and the need for additional copies is noted much sooner and remedied much quicker. Smaller system, faster correction...

I hope the Mayor and City Council members will visit KCLS Libraries. Why not make YOUR initial visit to OUR OWN LIBRARY here in Enumclaw? It would be helpful to you in judging. It will be surprising!

Charles Sansone




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