Editorial:

Powell library an asset, but limited by current building

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As communities across the country recognize National Library Week through April 13, we certainly have a lot to celebrate in Park County. In addition to offering thousands of books, our local libraries provide a wealth of resources for the community — computers, online classes, movies, audio books, research databases, meeting spaces and a wide variety of programs. Just in the last week, residents could enjoy edible books in Powell, learn about the art of Japanese calligraphy in Meeteetse or hear sleepy time stories in Cody.

Led by knowledgeable and passionate librarians, each local library plays a vital role in its community, serving everyone from babies through seniors.

This year’s theme for National Library Week is “Libraries = Strong Communities,” and it’s fitting. A thriving library is key to a healthy and strong community, and we can’t imagine Powell without ours.

However, we can imagine a better library for Powell.

The decades-old facility is simply too small for our growing community. Not only does the building lack the space for large gatherings, it also can be difficult to find a quiet reading nook — especially during busy after-school times. A coat of paint and some new carpet provided a freshening in early 2011, but it was basically nothing more than window dressing. Library employees have worked to make the best of the space over the years, but the crowded and aging building has long been in need of a real overhaul.

Now, an improved Powell library — and perhaps a new facility altogether — could be starting to appear on the horizon.

Last week, an independent consultant met with community members to look at “how the library should evolve in the coming years.” That feedback and other information will be compiled in an assessment outlining the community’s wants and needs.

After years of talk about the need for an improved facility among library leaders and local residents, it’s encouraging to see this process moving forward.

Of course, the initiative faces hurdles — chief among them, funding. The Park County Library board has discussed the possibility of seeking a 1 percent sales tax hike to fund improvements. Thirteen years ago, Park County voters approved an extra penny tax to fund the improved Cody library; that measure also included funding for the Powell Aquatic Center.

We know it’s early to start talking about another sales tax proposal. After all, we just stopped paying the last extra penny tax last week — and Powell’s share of the tax dollars are only starting to be spent; you can drive by the currently torn-up Absaroka Street to see the work on the widening and improvement project that voters approved in 2016.

But while it may be too soon to make a case for another sales tax increase, we will advocate for an improved Powell library. Our community will be stronger for it.

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