Funds for Kapolei
Library sought

The state librarian says the site
would open on schedule if it is funded

By Pat Omandam

State Librarian Virginia Lowell assured state lawmakers the idle Kapolei Library could open this December as scheduled -- if the Legislature antes up.

Lowell, at a House Finance Committee briefing yesterday, asked lawmakers to approve $1 million in emergency appropriations this fiscal year and $1.7 million more in the state's proposed 2004-2005 biennium budget so she can open the library, which was completed about a year ago.

State of Hawaii

Funding for what will be the state's second-largest library is a priority this year in the system's $22 million budget, she said.

"If all of that happens, I can say with a fair amount of certainty we will stick to our December 2003 opening for Kapolei Library," she said.

The Hawaii State Public Library System asked for $1.7 million for the library last year but was given only $267,000. Lowell said the money is needed to cover operating costs such as utilities, supplies and a start-up collection of books.

It will also pay to hire and train 19 new library staff, as well as buy and install computers, and for security personnel.

"If it was all up to me, I'd give you everything you need," responded Romy Mindo (D, Ewa Beach), a freshman representative on the Finance Committee.

Overall, Lowell said, the 5 percent budget restriction imposed on the library system and all state departments by Gov. Linda Lingle last month forced her to consider closing all public-school libraries, which serve schools and communities, to cope with the roughly $1 million budget cut.

The state budget director reduced the restriction to 2.5 percent after a meeting with library staff. Lowell said that prevents the closure of those libraries but will still mean shorter hours at all public libraries.

"However, with additional cuts being planned or discussed, and with an even higher percentage of our general fund going to salaries, we know we can no longer conduct business as usual and that we must embark on a different path to accomplish our mission," Lowell said.

Much of the foundation for that change is from a recent study of the library system that showed overall, the libraries generate about $20 million for the Hawaii economy, and for every state tax dollar invested, the system returns $12 in value.

The study noted the system needs a sustained annual increase of between $7 million and $12 million -- or about $6 per Hawaii resident -- to reach the national norm for peer libraries.

And it said the library system could generate $282 million in business annually if patrons had to pay commercial rates for its top services, but some lawmakers questioned that amount.

Nevertheless, Lowell said she is considering charging for some services that are now free to generate alternative sources of revenues. Two of them include Internet use and printing/copying services.

"What we're trying to establish with this study is the fact that people want these services and will use them and are willing to pay for them," Lowell said.

House Finance Chairman Dwight Takamine (D, Hilo) said other departments facing budget constraints have used studies to show legislators the positive impact their agency has in the community, and what would happen if funding was cut.

Hawaii State Public Library System

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