Camas library will remain independent

City officials will look into expanding relationship with FVRL

Camas will remain home to Clark County’s only independently operated library.

At the Camas City Council’s annual planning conference Saturday, elected leaders agreed with staff’s recommendation to keep the Camas Public Library independent, but look for ways to develop its relationship with the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District.

The possibility of annexing Camas’ library into the FVRL was first discussed by the City Council in early January, following the retirement in October 2015 of the library’s longtime director.

According to Mayor Scott Higgins, comments from the library’s board of directors and staff that followed focused on the belief that efforts should be made to enhance the library’s existing resources, without sacrificing local ownership.

“So, how do we accomplish both of those things? Is there a way to not only keep what we love, but also add content?,” he said. “This looked like a way to do that. That’s why we are recommending it as we move forward.”

Currently, through a shared services agreement Camas patrons have access to FVRL library catalog software and computer reservation systems, and reciprocal borrowing privileges. The city does not pay any fees for these privileges at the moment, but as part of the coming year’s contract negotiations with FVRL that is expected to change.

It is estimated that services currently provided by FVRL have a value of $23,000.

An example of the types of additional services that could be sought is making Camas part of the contract FVRL has with a private vendor for access to e-books, e-magazines and online research databases.

In addition, other new partnership possibilities include coordinating with FVRL in the selection of online databases to expand options for all patrons, as well as in software support and information technology services.

To offset some of the additional costs that would be associated with this expansion of services, City Administrator Pete Capell said he is recommending some changes to the organizational structure of the Camas library.

These could include reassigning some duties of the director and assistant director positions. Possibilities include eliminating the assistant director position and outsourcing some of the job responsibilities; and adding a non-represented job with supervisory duties over some members of the staff.

“Our recommendation is that we expand the Fort Vancouver relationship responsibilities in conjunction with internal changes,” Capell said. “We believe service to our patrons would be improved, and the local control would be maintained, and it would be cost-neutral.”

Since former Director David Zavortink’s retirement four months ago, assistant director Linda Swenton has served as the interim director.

Councilman Don Chaney said he is satisfied with the process that was used to evaluate the Camas library, and the results. He disagreed with some comments made by the public in recent months suggesting that considering annexation with FVRL was a waste of time and resources.

“To be leaders and to move on, we need to look at what we do. If we continue to say, ‘That’s the way we’ve always done it,’ then we die on the vine. I think this process has re-affirmed that we have something real special — that’s really good. I think it’s appropriate when we have windows of opportunity that we explore and measure what we are doing.”

Higgins agreed, explaining that this issue generated a significant amount of passionate community feedback.

“It was a good exercise for us to go through,” he said. “It gave us a good opportunity to check our strengths, look at our weaknesses, and the conclusion is simple: We are good being independent. That said, we are not satisfied with where we’re at. We are looking for ways to improve the system we have.”