Library system wants Sunday hours at two more branches

WashCo_logoPRTS chief: Paperless filing cuts visits to service centers

The Washington County Board of Commissioners learned at budget workshops Tuesday that while use of some county buildings has increased, visits to other buildings is down.

Washington County Library officials say visits increased when Sunday hours were restored at the main WCL branch in Woodbury and want to expand Sunday service to the system’s two larger branches in Cottage Grove and Forest Lake.

But a Property Records and Taxpayer Services department official said her department is seeing fewer visits to the county’s service centers as more residents go paperless through electronic document filing.

WCL Executive Director Patricia Conley focused on two larger issues she hopes will be funded in system’s nearly $6.6 million 2014 budget. During the first half of 2013, the R.H. Stafford branch in Woodbury was open 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays during the school year. Conley said during those Sunday hours, the branch had more than 10,000 visits, 18,000 materials borrowed and 1,000 log-ins at the 32 community computers, which she called “significant use.”

Conley proposed maintaining Sunday hours at Stafford and restoring Sunday hours from 1 to 5 p.m. at the WCL branches in Cottage Grove and Forest Lake. Current staff at those branches would be used to work Sundays.

Conley’s other concern was funds for new digital materials, including E-books, E-magazines and E-audiobooks. The library system would purchase around 3,300 new titles with $100,000.

“$100,000 will only buy 3,300 because E-books are expensive,” she said.

Commissioners agreed that the use of digital materials is the future of library use and stressed that building a digital library would provide residents with a range of titles.

PRTS Director Jennifer Wagenius presented an $8.6 million budget for 2014. About 80 percent of the PRTS budget will be used for personnel, with the remainder going for professional services, facilities, material and supplies and printing and maintenance. The budget will be funded 75 percent from non-levy revenue, which is from fees for license and vital records, property records, assessment and mortgage and deed tax, among others.

Wagenius said more county residents are going paperless and submitting documents online, leading to reduced use of the county’s brick-and-mortar license centers.

Wagenius also explained how the county files both electronic and paper documents in a timely matter. The state maximum for processing documents is five days for electronic documents and 10 days and paper documents. She added that the county is estimated to file electronic documents in one day and paper documents in five-and-a-half days.

The No Excuses Absentee Voting that goes in effect next year is expected to affect Washington County voters, according to Wagenius. She estimates that there will be a 50 percent increase in absentee voting under the new system.

Wagenius also mentioned increased funding and expenditures for even year election costs, but besides that, she said that her department’s goal is to “enhance the quality and efficiency of our services.”

Contact Amanda White at [email protected]