Opinion

Barren bookshelves, broken bank

The downtown Bremerton branch od the Kitsap Regional Library is darned if it does, darned if it doesn’t, but darn it, something has to get done.

The building is in need of repair — the roof leaks, some floor tiles are missing, there are some problems with the restrooms — but the building’s owner — the city of Bremerton — doesn’t have the cash on hand to get the repairs done.

The building, and the library branch, is in a holding pattern. A couple of years ago, the city thought it had a buyer for the building. That didn’t happen.

Now, the hope is for the city to rent out part of the building so the paying tenants can raise revenue to cover the cost of repairs. In addition, the city has received a block grant to fix some of the problems in the building.

To rent out parts of the building, however, the library has to reduce the floor space it uses.

So that’s exactly what the library is doing: emptying shelves and making tough decisions about what services to keep at the branch, according to Robin Cameron, the deputy director of branch services for the Kitsap Regional Library. Up to this point, it’s been a rocky ride: there was talk of the library being moved into the new government center. That won’t happen now, however, because the Kitsap County Health District wants floor space. The health district will pay rent; the city is donating space to the KRL.

The KRL certainly wants to maintain a presence in the downtown core, Cameron said.

“Everyone wants to have a city and a downtown. If you want to renovate downtown, you have to have a library,” Cameron said.

There currently is no written agreement between the city and the KRL that guarantees the KRL space to keep a library downtown.

“Some day, if there is enough money for the city to provide us with space for a full library, we will be happy. But for now, we are just happy to maintain a presence downtown,” Cameron said.

With budget woes looming over the state and city, both the library and the city are in an unfortunate situation.

Whatever the politics on either side, there is a forgotten third element stuck in the middle: the library patrons who will have to go to East Bremerton for some of the services they used to get at the library in the downtown core.

And that, for lack of a better word, is unfortunate. The city needs to raise revenue to repair the building so it can be a proper landlord. The library does not have the money to pay rent. Therefore, the library must downsize to make room for a tenant that can pay rent.

The downtown Bremerton branch of the Kitsap Regional Library is darned if it does, darned if it doesn’t, but darn it, something has to get done.

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