The city isn’t considering leaving the county library system, but it will look at the value of what it’s getting, including the kiosk at City Hall.
Hugo has no plans to secede from the county library system but will participate in a study group to evaluate the current kiosk at City Hall and whether library services should be expanded, City Administrator Bryan Bear said last week.
“Responsible government would ask itself whether it’s providing a good service, what the citizens expect and whether it’s doing it at a good value,” Bear said after the City Council heard a presentation from Patricia Conley, the county’s library director.
Not long ago, before major housing developments brought scores of new residents, Hugo was a sleepy farming crossroads. It’s never had a city library, even as the city’s population nears 14,000 and many residents borrow from libraries in Forest Lake, White Bear Lake and cities in Anoka County.
Washington County, in 2010, opened a book kiosk in Hugo, and business is brisk. In 38 months of operation, county library figures show, 13,800 books and other items have passed through Hugo Library Express.
“We do get a lot of very positive comments about the kiosk,” said Bear, describing how the original 20 lockers were doubled because of demand.
Conley told the City Council that Hugo residents borrow predominantly from two county branch libraries: Hardwood Creek in Forest Lake and Wildwood in Mahtomedi. The 7,608 library-card holders will borrow more than 70,000 books and other items from county libraries in 2013, she said.
“There really is significant access gained as being part of the regional library system,” said Fran Miron, a longtime Hugo mayor who now is a county commissioner.
Hugo residents have a long history of borrowing from the Forest Lake City Library, which became a branch of the county library in 2000. They still borrow considerably more books in Forest Lake than from their city kiosk, Bear said, and that will be studied by a new library subcommittee.
“There are still reasons people go to a full-service library, to an actual building,” he said.
About half of Hugo’s residents live in the White Bear Lake School District, and many of them have Ramsey County Library cards, Bear said.
The Washington County Library has a law library, three kiosks and six branches, including its flagship library in Woodbury. Stillwater and Bayport have their own libraries but share services with the county.
Lake Elmo started its own library a few years ago after disagreements with the county over costs and hours. Volunteers staff the library and have been building a book collection. Hugo’s library situation, Bear said, “is so very different from what is going on in Lake Elmo.”
Bear said no Hugo City Council members have proposed breaking from the county library to start a city-run library. City Council member Chuck Haas called for diligence in examining the pros and cons of county membership, which costs the city about $350,000 a year.
Miron said Hugo works with the county through a contract with the Sheriff’s Office for patrol services. The library discussion, he said, makes sense as the city grows.
“I think it’s just raising the issue and having the discussion, and to me that’s responsible leadership,” he said.
Kevin Giles • 651-925-5037