The recent announcement that the city of Surprise will assume operations of its three libraries, (rather than contracting that service through Maricopa County) has spurred some questions from residents about funding, programming and general library operations. [“City adds new arts, culture department,” Sept. 28]
As acting director of the city of Surprise Arts, Culture and Library Department, I have had the opportunity to talk with residents, hear their concerns, answer their questions and debunk some myths. These conversations have helped to build a list of “Frequently Asked Questions,” and I invite you to check them out on the City website at surpriseaz.gov/library. I also want to share answers to some of the top questions here, like, “Why are we making this change anyway?”
Please know, this decision was not taken lightly. After careful consideration, there were several reasons we decided to make the change and assume library operations ourselves. At nearly 150,000 residents, the city has grown to the point where we have the ability to bring oversight of our library system in-house. This will give us the opportunity to customize programming and materials to our community’s desires. We can be flexible and innovative. We will also be able to create more synergies with other city programs and events, creating additional opportunities for residents to engage with new and existing library services.
Residents also want to know what changes they will see next year when the transition to city oversite is complete. The answer is more about enhancements, not change. The city plans to keep all current library services and programs, while adding additional programming and enhancing the customer experience. This means users will still be able to access the entire Maricopa County book collection, request books from other local libraries and maintain all the current benefits of the ongoing and uninterrupted partnership with the County Library system. Our enhancements will be based on feedback from customers, the community and a future Library Commission, consisting of Surprise resident volunteers, which will be formed in early 2023. To date, Surprise residents have requested a broader range of programming topics and facilitated learning.
Added expense or funding is another concern we hear. What you may not know is that Surprise already owns the buildings, books and other assets in the library, so we have budgeted for these resources all along. We’ve also been paying for operations – we’ve just been paying the County to perform that service on our behalf. In Fiscal Year 2023, we are taking that same funding amount and applying it to our own internal operations. There are no added fees, taxes, assessments or costs required to make this change, and there are no plans to increase or exceed the allocated budget.
Even with these questions answered, we understand that change can be uncomfortable, and we want library customers to rest assured the city is working hard to make this transition seamless and convenient. A big part of that effort is taking your calls and answering your questions.
This transition is a collaborative effort with Maricopa County Library District. That said, the County will maintain full responsibility for daily library operations, planning and programming until the transition next year. Surprise will continue to support the County’s current library efforts and programs and even provide assistance, if needed, to ensure the community continued access to the programs and services they have come to enjoy.
If you have other questions or want to provide feedback, please visit surpriseaz.gov/library or email me at Kelsey.Lamphier@surpriseaz.gov.
Editor’s Note: Kelsey Lamphier is acting director of the Surprise Arts, Culture and Library Department.