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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 2, 2002

Kapolei library now looking at '04 opening

By Scott Ishikawa
Advertiser Staff Writer

KAPOLEI — The Legislature has included money in the new state budget for a partial staff for the new Kapolei library, but State Librarian Virginia Lowell said something essential is still missing: books.

A new Kapolei library won't open next year, State Librarian Virginia Lowell said.

Advertiser library photo

In the budget approved Tuesday, lawmakers included approximately $267,000 for five staff members, when Lowell had requested $1.7 million for 24 staffers plus money for books, furniture and other library equipment.

Lowell said the latest development means the 30,000-square-foot library will not meet its projected summer 2003 opening and probably won't be ready until 2004 at the earliest. And then only if the Legislature can come up with the required financing next session. Kapolei residents have long awaited their own library since it was promised in the early 1990s, as financing was eliminated year after year.

"It's built now, and we're really disappointed we can't get the doors open," said Kristine Newmann, president of the Friends of the Library of Kapolei, a nonprofit group. "It makes it a big white monument to the lack of support that education has been getting in general. Now we have to pay to maintain something that no one will get any benefit from."

But state Rep. Mark Moses, R-42nd (Kapolei, 'Ewa Village, Village Park), said his constituents said they preferred to spend money on a gymnasium and an additional classroom building at the Kapolei High School campus, as well as for operating costs to run Kapolei Elementary and Middle schools under a multi-track system.

"We got $20 million to help complete Kapolei High," Moses said. "I know that CIP funding (for the high school) comes from a different pot of money, but residents felt the schools took a higher priority."

The library building likely will sit dormant for a year and a half, though Lowell said library officials are discussing whether it can be used for other functions while they await financing.

Along with the $1.7 million request, state library officials also asked for a $1 million emergency appropriation to pay for furniture and other library equipment, but that measure also died this session.

From the $1.7 million, state Sen. Brian Kanno, D-20th ('Ewa Beach, Makakilo and Kapolei), said the House and Senate finance committees agreed on the $266,904 appropriation during conference committee hearings before the budget passed this week.

"It's very disappointing the building is going to remain empty. ... We fought hard to get whatever library funding approved in hopes it can jump-start the library opening. The Senate wanted the full amount, but had to compromise with House Finance," Kanno said. He also said the appropriation would cover two librarian positions, two librarian assistants and one custodian.

But Lowell said even the limited financing, about one-tenth of the amount originally requested, would have been more useful if it went toward purchasing books rather than hiring staffers. She estimates it will cost between $600,000 and $700,000 to purchase the 60,000 books, along with videos and CDs needed to stock the Kapolei library.

"It takes 12 to 18 months to catalog and process books, compared to four to five months to hire and train staffing, so it would seem logical to fund the service first that takes the longest," Lowell said. "Aside from training, there isn't much the library staff can do without the books and equipment."

Aside from the delay in the Kapolei library opening, Lowell said the state library system will be able to sustain current hours and staffing at the state's other 50 libraries, despite the 2 percent cut imposed on all state departments by the Cayetano administration. About $21.3 million was approved this session for the library system.