The Post Register recently featured our library in an article on August 17, 2022.
See the original article here at the Post Register.
Michelle Tolman, library director of the Bonneville County Library District, has donated hundreds of hours of her time to preparing the Ammon Branch for the public.
Ammon’s New Library Is Making History
Nestled cozily between Bed Bath and Beyond and Deseret Book in the Teton Spectrum Shopping Center in Ammon, dozens of volunteers, thousands of books and a new library have appeared seemingly out of nowhere.
After its 42nd year of contractual agreements, the Bonneville County Library District has ended its connection with the city of Idaho Falls’ Library District and is preparing for the grand opening and ribbon-cutting of Ammon’s first-ever library. The festivities are set for Oct. 1, the day after the county’s contract with the city of Idaho Falls expires.
“With the growth of the county and rising costs of continuing service, the board decided that it was time to create our own library system,” said Michelle Tolman, director of the Bonneville County Library District. “For decades people have been asking for libraries closer to the people and that is what we are trying to give them.”
Discussions about the contract began in February when the Idaho Falls board asked that Ammon residents assume responsibility for 42% of the Idaho Falls Library District’s annual budget, rather than the 31% they were contributing.
Those living within the Bonneville County Library District’s boundaries would have seen their total library taxes rise from $1.1 million to $1.94 million without receiving any new library services, Tolman said.
Though some residents felt the new amount the Idaho Falls district requested was worth paying, a majority were not using the Idaho Falls library’s services enough to make the increase feel justifiable, Tolman said. These findings led to the Bonneville County Library District board’s decision to move forward with the separation.
The contract with Idaho Falls expires Sept. 30, meaning library patrons who live outside of Idaho Falls city limits will have to pay a non-resident fee for the city’s library services after that date if they want to continue using the Idaho Falls library’s services. The fee will change from $65 to $120 when the contract ends.
Severing the contract gave the county library district reason to build and maintain libraries of its own. Tolman proposed to the board that for the same price that residents were currently paying, the district could create small libraries closer to the people, start small and get bigger over time.
After voting in May to end the contract, board members and volunteers with the county library district have garnered support from residents, leased two spaces, collected more than 30,000 books, done thousands of combined hours of volunteering, and are feeling excited and prepared for their official opening date.
Kendall Purser, a library employee who began as a volunteer, started collecting books for an Ammon library branch before he even knew if there would be one.
“I heard all of the discussions about the libraries and I got angry and I started collecting,” Purser said. “Ammon is the largest city in Idaho without a library and we need one.”
Purser has collected nearly 7,500 books on his own. Purser has been hired for his technological expertise and cannot count the number of hours he has spent getting the library ready.
Christy Shelby, Bonneville County Library District vice president, also started as a volunteer. She has helped with everything from laying carpet to labeling books and is learning firsthand the work it takes to set up and run a library.
“Books help people understand people better, I hope that people will come and use this resource to do that. Just gain deeper understanding of those around them.”
Books, shelving and furniture as well as trades expertise, passion and time have been donated to making these libraries a reality for Bonneville County and the volunteers and board members aren’t finished yet.
The Ammon and Westside branches will both be operational Oct. 1 but the Iona and Swan Valley branch-opening dates are yet to be determined.
The Bonneville County Library District will cover everything in Bonneville County, minus the city limits of Idaho Falls. Anyone in the city limits of Idaho Falls can still obtain a library card within the Bonneville district for a $65 fee, reflective of household fees, Tolman said.
Tolman hopes that with libraries closer to residents, and more focused on their individuality as a community, the libraries will be more representative of the area’s needs and that people will begin to frequent the libraries more.
“Only 26% of our population has an active library card, our usage has gone way down and those we have interviewed have only been using the online resources,” Tolman said. “We want to be specific to the needs of the people in our areas and we can do that better when we are in their communities.
All the district’s library branches will have a connected collection so books may be requested and transferred or picked up at any of the four branches. The libraries also will continue to have weekly story time, many online resources and activity packets and resources specific to the Bonneville district.
“We want people to have a clear understanding of the situation and understand the decision that we have made,” Tolman said. “We are positive, we are building, but we need people help.”
Tolman said the district has encountered some unexpected expenses that must be offset to stay on budget, but district officials are making adjustments to absorb those costs.
“We will be ready Oct. 1,” she said. “We may not have everything catalogued but we will have books and resources for people and we will go as fast as we can to do the best with what we have been given to work with.”
The district is accepting volunteers of all ages to work between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The district also is accepting book donations.
More information can be found on the Friends of Bonneville County Libraries Facebook page as well as the library districts’ website: bonnevillecountylibrarydistrict.lili.org.