By Jim Misunas
OTIS — For a town of about 300 people, Otis residents have showed their interest in their local library. About 100 people attended a recent public meeting at Otis-Bison High School.
The Otis Community Library may be forced to relocate in mid-August after the Otis city council voted 4-1 recently to move the library out of the city building. The Otis Community Library, 122 S. Main, has been in the same building at Otis city hall for 40 years. The city of Otis has provided space and paid utilities and salaries.
The Otis Community Library Board received the news it would no longer be welcome at city hall through a certified letter from City Clerk Patricia Stieben. The letter explained the library had 30 days from July 15 to relocate. Larry Krestine serves as city librarian.
Lois Wagner, Otis library board chair, said she will request an extension of a 30-day time frame for the library to vacate the city office, during the city council meeting at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 10.
Otis Mayor Roger Brack said citizens are invited to speak at Wednesday’s council meeting by getting their name on the city’s agenda by calling 785-387-2403. Citizens are also invited to voice their opinion to their city council representatives.
Wagner joined library board members Bon Rountree, Anita Hergert, Doris Straub and Sandra Harbaugh at the meeting. Harry Willems, Central Kansas Library Systems director, also attended.
Willems said the Central Kansas Library Systems provides a variety of services for the Otis library. CKLS provides continuing education, computer repair and diagnostic services, grants for services and a rotating collection of books and other items.
Willems said he was encouraged by the local response. He said local mill levies provide just a portion of rural libraries’ budgets. One mill in a small town will produce $1,000. The Great Bend mill levy generates more than $90,000. Willems said most local libraries have a mill levy set up through an ordinance.
“The meeting was a clear message the local citizens want the library to continue,” Willems said. “There was a lot of support for the library. Maintaining a local library is a quality of life issue, especially in a rural area.”
Willems said some smaller towns co-exist with a combined school and public library. But he said such set-ups involve cooperation for hours and access.
Willems said it’s typical that the local taxing entity would provide support for a library, through space and utilities.
“There are quite a few instances where space and utilities are supported and that’s the way it should be,” he said.
Wagner said the library regularly serves more than 200 patrons per month. Wireless Internet access is available along with three public computers. The library is open from 7-9 p.m. Monday; 9 a.m. to noon Tuesday and Saturday; 1:30 to 5 p.m. Thursday; and 9 a.m. to noon and 1:30 to 5 p.m. Friday.
Wagner said the library intends to remain open. Wagner said it was unclear whether the city would continue providing financial support for the library if it does move to another location. Wagner said if the library is forced to move, it would require additional financial assistance through an increased mill levy or fundraising.
The letter from Stieben stated after Aug. 15, “the city will no longer be responsible for payment of any employment wages or workers compensation or liability or property insurance premiums. The city council has determined this would give you adequate time to make arrangements for a new location and the movement of all property from the city-owned building to that new location and arrange to acquire an Employers Identification Number and Insurance coverage.”