The following is my educated guess on what might happen to Renton libraries should voters decide to annex into the King County Library System. Again, these are just my own ideas but I think they could be a real possibility, especially if you read between the lines.

We already know that KCLS has no immediate plans to build Renton a new library. We have been promised some new lighting, maybe some computer upgrades, additional open hours and some signage – lots and lots of signage. Those are the immediate improvements that patrons can expect to see once annexation into the KCLS system happens, that and a longer wait time for books, a less browseable selection and a “clustered” staffing model.

Newcastle is scheduled to have a new library built starting March 2010. If KCLS has to close the Newcastle branch at any time during the construction process they will surely encourage patrons to visit the Highlands Branch as it would be in close proximity to them. After the new library is completed in New Castle I believe we would see the Highlands Branch closed and people in that area encouraged to visit the new 10,000 sq ft Newcastle Library being that they are only 5 miles apart.

If Renton decides to annex its libraries into KCLS there is no doubt in my mind that Fairwood would annex into the City of Renton. As some of you know Fairwood is scheduled for a 5,000 sq ft upgrade in 2012. During that construction process it can be assumed that the Fairwood Branch would shut down and people would be encouraged to visit the Renton Branch.  

By the time the Fairwood expansion is completed, Skyway will have made their decision whether or not to annex into the City of Renton. Per the Capitol Bond Improvement Project, Skyway is slated for a new 8,000 sq ft library building pending annexation.

The following is taken from the “Agreement Regarding Library Services in the Event of Annexation”, it is dated July 31, 2009 and has been signed by Mayor Denis Law and KCLS Director Bill Ptacek.

“6. Facilities Development Coordination. KCLS has plans to develop a new library in Skyway and to expand its Fairwood library, each in an area identified for potential annexation to the City. In the event that such areas do annex to the City, KCLS and the City agree to coordinate the development of these projects with the development of the proposed replacement facilities for the Main and Highlands Libraries. KCLS also has plans to develop a new library in the East Hill area of Kent, which would serve certain areas of Renton, including the Benson Hill area. In the event of a successful annexation election of the City into KCLS, KCLS and the City also agree to coordinate the development of this project with the development of the proposed replacement facilities for the Main and Highlands Libraries. In any such case, such coordination might enable KCLS to participate in the funding of the development of the replacement facilities for the Main and Highlands Libraries. “

You really don’t have to be a genius to figure this one out, the agreement pretty much speaks for itself. KCLS will use the Renton library as a hub until completion of its Capitol Bond Improvements and then instead of giving Downtown Renton a new library building it will direct residents to the many new library buildings that are technically in the City of Renton. KCLS could also look like the hero to some – providing Renton with access to 4 new library buildings -2 within the city, 2 just out of the city and there would be no reason for the City to vote on a bond for a new library building.

I think this is a real possibility for the future of our libraries. Together KCLS and the City have not given voters a guarantee that annexation will mean a new library in Downtown Renton or in the Highlands for that matter. If you think annexation is a good idea because Renton will get a new library building you better ask yourself where that new library will be located.

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