Cities split over county-wide library system


An American Fork city councilwoman is pushing hard for a countywide library system, but Orem and Provo libraries don’t want in.

Tracy Steck and her daughter use the resources at the Provo Library. (Photo by Sarah Hill)
Tracy Steck and her daughter use the resources at the Provo Library. (Photo by Sarah Hill)

Heidi Rodeback, American Fork City councilwoman, said American Fork has shown not only that the countywide systems works well, but that it is desperately needed. Smaller libraries across Utah County don’t have the resources or supplies other libraries have, and this system would help that need.

“I will reiterate my personal position that a countywide library system is long overdue. Most of our communities are too small to fund and operate libraries on their own,” Rodeback said. “Yet the children of Cedar Hills are no different from the children of American Fork in their need for library services. Moreover, our economic development is hindered because major employers will not move their employees to a county that cannot offer them a library system.”

The idea of a countywide system is an age-old discussion in Utah County that surfaces every three to four years. No significant headway has been made on the matter because the same issues arise every time it is brought up. However, Rodeback recently went before the Utah County Commissioners to petition for a countywide system, even if Provo and Orem libraries are excluded.

Gene Nelson, director of the Provo Library for 16 years, grew up with a countywide system. While he thinks the idea is wonderful, he knows it is a difficult situation.

“If those cities want to create a countywide system without us, I think that is great for them,” he said. “It really comes down to equity and fairness. It is not fair to the Provo or Orem resident to join the system because there is no value to them. I’m not sure that the other cities would be willing or able to invest the same amount of money we have into our libraries.”

Provo and Orem have spent years developing their libraries and have spent more time, money and training than have the other seven libraries in cities of Utah County, according to Nelson.

“I have yet to have a Provo resident come to me and want a countywide system to be able to access smaller outlying city libraries,” Nelson said. “That’s just not the case.”

Smaller libraries, including American Fork, Eagle Mountain, Lehi and Pleasant Grove, participate in the North Utah County Library Cooperative. This allows residents of these cities to use their library card to check out materials from any of the participating libraries.

Michele Graves, a city librarian for Eagle Mountain, would love to see Utah County follow the example of Salt Lake County’s countywide system.

“I believe that all libraries would benefit from a countywide system,” Graves said, emphasizing all. “Coming from Los Angeles County myself, it made it much easier to find items I needed. I think it would help smaller libraries focus their collections to better fit their communities, and patrons would have access to a much larger selection.”

Salt Lake’s countywide system began 90 years ago, making it difficult to compare its system with Utah County’s.

While the Provo and Orem libraries thrive individually, smaller libraries throughout Utah County would have more resources and success by joining a countywide effort to link multiple libraries together.

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