County commissioners say they will work toward doubling the size of the local library cooperative.
The idea is to see if south county libraries will join the existing north county co-op. Provo, Orem and perhaps Springville would be left out at their own request. If accomplished, it would the first time the county has had a semblance of a countywide book borrowing system.
"We are going to call a committee of people smarter than us and explore it," Commissioner Gary Anderson said. "I think that is exactly the way to go. We will do it sooner rather than later."
Provo and Orem have said their libraries are too well-funded to join their neighbors without some kind of large compensation. The new proposal is to put Provo and Orem aside. American Fork Councilwoman Heidi Rodeback first floated the idea, saying a task force should be formed to negotiate joining south Utah County's smaller libraries to the existing north county library co-op.
"Heidi Rodeback, in my mind, is going to be a key to this thing," Anderson said.
Commissioner Larry Ellertson said he would take the proposal to a regional council of Utah County's mayors.
"I like the idea of a co-op," said Commissioner Doug Witney, who noted that the north part of the county has been a leader in creating regional cooperation.
Without Provo and Orem, it is expected that no money would need to change hands if the libraries down south joined the north co-op. Those who live in cities without libraries are usually offered some reimbursement so they can buy a non-resident card at a library nearby, which would mean that most families in the county, outside of Provo and Orem, would have co-op access.
At that point, the only thing left would be to create a courier system so residents could order books from co-op libraries for next-day delivery to their library. Ellertson championed this proposal.
"You would have access to the entire collection" of the co-op, he said."Not every library has every book but they will have it for you tomorrow."
The courier system also could mean that libraries could specialize the collections to some degree because cities would not need to purchase as many copies of the same books -- and when a book is popular, copies might be easier to get in the larger pool. Resident could be charged a small courier fee, the task force could seek a donor to get the service started, or both.
"I believe there is a way to do it so that everyone is equitably treated," Ellertson said.
Anderson, who is a Springville resident, praised his local library, but said "we ought to be sharing this wonderful thing with Benjamin" residents. "There has to be a way to pay for it. I think the landscape has changed and mayors realize the regionality of our county. We are going to take another run at it."
Ellertson said that before moving to Utah County, he and his wife enjoyed Salt Lake's countywide library system. His wife held on to her access to that system as long as she could after moving here, and then had cards at both Orem and Pleasant Grove libraries "because she was accustomed to having access to a broader selection of books," he said.
There has been no discussion so far of the expanded cooperative library system affecting the county's Bookmobile service, on which many schools and communities without libraries rely.