Island County ’s law library struggles to stay afloat

Island County law library officials are asking the county to grant them $3,200 to cover a 2013 deficit and approve an increase in filing fees from $17 to $20.

Librarian Tom Karras has also offered to reduce his hours by five per week, which would reflect a savings of $4,000 per year in the library’s budget.

In previous years, Karras accepted a cut in pay to assist the library.

“It was really the librarian who saved the day,” said Island County Superior Court Judge Vickie Churchill, who chairs the Law Library board of trustees.

Churchill told the county commissioners during a work session Wednesday that the law library’s budget declined in recent years because of a decrease in the number of filings, and an increase in the number of people asking for fee waivers.

The library has already cut down on a number of books and resources over the years but has reached a point where they don’t feel more should be dropped, Churchill said.

The library would like to retain the Westlaw book collection at a minimum, she said.

State law requires that each county with a population of 8,000 or more have a county law library. For counties the size of Island County, the required five-member law library board of trustees consists of the chair of the board of county commissioners, one of the Superior Court judges and three members of the county Bar Association.

The board of commissioners agreed that the measure should move forward to a regular meeting, but staff was directed to research how the fee increase might affect other budgets connected with the statute.

The law library is open to the public and the legal community to access materials for legal research.

Legal materials must be used in the library and are not available for check out by the public due to the small size of the library collection. Library staff can assist visitors with locating materials, but cannot give legal advice.

The library also offers three computers that are available for legal research databases.

Churchill mentioned that it has been a number of years since the technology in the library has been updated and the fee increase, coupled with the librarian’s hours decrease, may allow the board of trustees to build up a reserve for technology improvements in the future.


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