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The Timberland Regional Library
The Timberland Regional Library began its service development with one idea in mind: getting information to the patron whether the patron lived across from the Olympia Library or was a resident of Packwood or Ocean Park. The Timberland Board and staff were committed to providing equal access to the resources of the district.
In order to assure acceptable service levels throughout the five counties, the con t f nue d cooperation of existing mifnicipal libraries was imperative. All independent libraries were encouraged to contract with the newly formed district. Basically. the contract that was developed required that participating cities and towns pay a contract fee based upon the Timberland property tax levy ratc applied to their individual assessed values. In addition they would provide and maintain suitable quarters for the library. Timherland in turn would provide all library service including staff and materials without further cost to the municipality. With the exception of the city of Shelton all of the cities which were providing public library service in pre-Demonstration years eventually contracted with the new Timberland system. Thus, with the exception of bookmobiles, library service to residents of incorporated and unincorporated areas alike was delivered from
buildings in contracting cities. The contract cities became the framework on which the entire public service system was built. However, they we r e not an integral part of this district which consisted of the unincorporated area of five counties. (see Appendix 4)
Because of the desire to provide equitable access to the district's resources to ALL residents of the Timberland service area, bookmobile service continued to be a major factor in the early years of the district's development. These mobile libraries traveled the roadways of the five counties providing door to door service to rural residents. The service was also very useful in establishing contact with children. Bookmobile stops at schools throughout the district were frequent.
The library district continued its courier service which had been provided by the Washington State Library during the Demonstration. This service consisted of a number of vans and drivers following carefully planned routes throughout the entire Timberland area. The couriers were central to the ability to transport materials to all of the libraries.
Early in 1970 the Timberland Board and Administration recognized the need for a central services and administrative headquarters building separate from a library. The district's administrative offices had been located in the Olympia Carnegie building during the Demonstration and remained there after the district was established. However, the combination public service
outlet/administrative services building no longer was practical and
in August of 1970 the district's headquarters was moved to a leased
facility in Lacey.
A more important change in 19'70 was the implementation of a
new color coded circulation system. This may have seemed
insignificant to those unfamiliar with library procedures, but it
was not. Previously all cards were filed by date which made it
possible to keep circulated items in chronological order, determine
when groups of items were overdue, and at the overdue point match
patron to item. However, the chronological filing system made it
impossible to determine the location of a circulating item without "
going through an exhaustive search process. The new color coded
filing system unified the district in a sense that no other change
had done before. It made it possible to immediately locate books
whether they were on the shelf or not. This was a very important
step in the development of efficient means for connecting the
patron with requested library material. A direct result of the
color coded card filing system was the streamlining of the
district's system of central requests and the implementati.on of
direct to patron mail service. (1)
In order to understand the importance of the investment made
in the changeover from a date due circulation filing system to a
color coded circulation filing system, one must understand at least
the most salient differences between the t,\TO ways of handling the
circulation files. The date-due method required that book cards in
the circulation file be separated by as many as twenty-six small
files (one for each day of the month that the library was open)
plus eight or ten special sections for overdue books, lost books,
etc. Within each of these dates there were several smaller
sections: one for non-fiction (filed by Dewey number), one for
fiction (filed alphabetically by author, then title if there was
more than one by the same author), one for magazines, one for
pamphlets, and one for phono-records. Staff searched these files
from one end to the other as books being returned were cleared.
The color-coded circulation file allowed a single file in
title order, which paralleled the arrangement of a major file at 11\
the Service Center called the central locater file. The dates due
were indicated by color and position at the top of a plastic book
jacket which was slipped over the book card. This single file
allowed staff to separate several boxes of cards and work on one
part of the alphabet whil.e other staff members worked on different
parts. The plastic jackets were taken off when books were
returned, then put aside to be sorted later into stacks by color
and position. This meant that books which were returned could be
cleared faster and returned to the shelves, or put aside for
mailing if there was a request waiting.
No real cost accounting was done for the change to the color
coded system for several reasons: the first was that librarians
were not yet as cost conscious as they were to become in the next
few years; the second was that the administration recognized at the
time the change was made that it was an interim measure designed- to accomodate the user request system. As such, it would have to serve until the circulation AND request systems could be computerized at some point in the future and tied in with district-wide availability of the central locater file at the local level. The color-coded system worked well in the early years but real problems began to develop even before the new Olympia Timberland Library was opened in December 1978.
In the early 1970's there was an inventory of all Timberland holdings. This inventory allowed for the publication of an updated catalog of materials available in the district. Not only did this make materials more accessible to patrons, it also made possible the creation of a new central loc~tor file with a card for each copy of each title and its location in the district. Prior to the development of this updated central locator file the individual library headquarters buildings from pre-Demonstration times had the only "immediate" access to item location. Now the information was centrally available. The district was further unified.
As services became more uniform the Board and Staff began to focus attention on physical facilities. Many recommendations found in a physical facilities study presented in draft form by consultant Lura G. Currier in 1970, became realities during the District's formative years. (2) One such recommendation was for the establishment of a Timberland library in Packwood. Since the need for a building in that eastern Lewis county community was
apparent, the Timberland Board took action which resulted in
opening a library in Packwood in April of 1973. This was the first
library building planned and supported by the district with
At the same time the Packwood library was being planned, the
Board and Staff were looking to the North Beach area of Grays
Harbor county. Ocean Shores, which had incorporated after
Timberland was established, decided not to contract with the
district for service. This left the residents of that area with
minimal service by bookmobile. The Board again decided that a
facility was appropriate and opened the Timberland North Beach
Library in a leased building at Hogan's corner in July of 1973.
The third building to be opened by the Timberland Regional
Library was the Timberland South Mason library at the airport
industrial center near Shelton Ln Mason County. The South Mason
facility was designed and built as a library according to
Timberland specifications. The Board of Trustees leased the
facility from the owner/builder until November of 1984.
The patterns of providing full library service to residents
of the multi-county district were beginning to change. Facilities
were built and/or leased and bookmobiles were withdrawn from
service as developments made this practical. The new fixed
facilities allowed library staff to interpret better and meet local
needs. Materials assigned to the various libraries became a
reflection of the community. Patrons began receiving a wider range
of services than had been possible with bookmobiles alone. (The transition from bookmobile service to service from fixed facilities was accelerated by the Arab oil embargo and resulting escalated fuel costs.) The new library facilities, and the expanding range of patron services required an improved administrative support structure. It became increasingly difficult to provide this support from the District's cramped service headquarters in Lacey.
In early 1973 an experimental inward-WATS line was established in Hason county which allowed patrons to call the library toll free and request to have materials mailed directly to them. This system, coupled with the district's streamlined central request function, was so successful it was expanded to all five counties later that same year. Again, service was becoming more readily available to patrons throughout the district.
From 1970 through 1977, the amount of support the District's Service Headquarters could provide its public service outlets was limited by its physical constraints. There was no room for activities such as mending worn books or even processing new ones. All phases of the acquisition and cataloging processes were done by contract at the State Library. Then in December of 1976 the Timberland Regional Library was awarded an EDA Grant in the amount of $870,015 for the construction of a new Service Center at the Airdustrial·Park at the Olympia airport. This was important for a number of reasons. Chief among them was the fact that all library support services could be accomplished centrally by Timberland
personnel rather than contracted to the Washington State Library. The Timberland Service Center opened on December 17, 1977.
Developments in library automation helped facilitate the transition for Service Center staff. Timberland was one of the nine libraries that participated in the Washington Library Network pilot project from 1972 - 1974. This bibliographic network produced the district's catalogs and provided access to the holdings of the other participating libraries, thus expanding the resources available to Timberland Regional Library residents. The data base, consisting of acquisitions by the Library of Congress and unique local holdings, became available on-line in 1976. After WLN enabling legislation was passed in 1976, network staff (now officially part of the Washington State Library) moved ahead with the development of an acquisitions SUb-system that permitted on-line ordering, receiving, and complete accounting functions.
By late 1978 Timberland was utilizing the WLN acquisitions subsystem. Library materials were being ordered on-line and the district began to process its own materials. By the Spring of 1979 Timberland was handling all of its own acquisitions, cataloging and processing functions. The Timberland Regional Library was finally independent in all aspects.
More changes occurred in 1979. In December the district completed its newest facility, the Timberland North Mason Library in Belfair. This brought the district's totally owned and leased libraries to seven: Packwood, North Beach, South Mason,and North
Mason, which were accomplished under the direction of the
Timberland Board, and Montesano and Ocean Park which were inherited
during the Timberland demonstration. The district also had
established a library in Amanda Park by withdrawing mobile library
service from Grays Harbor county and permanently placing the
bookmobile on the Amanda Park school grounds on June 13, 1977.
After construction of the North Mason building there was no
further building activity until the library district received the
present Packwood building in a 1981 bequest by the late Sherman
Coombs. That building was extensively remodeled by Timberland
which hosted its grand opening in August 1981 • . ;1,)
Throughout the years of service development, the district's
central theme remaine'd "getting the materials to the patron." The
Timberland Board and staff committed itself to finding ways of
improving library service to residents throughout the five
counties. As early as 1974, there were discussions of "Automated
Circulation and Inventory Control Systems" but it did not seem
possible for Timberland ever to finance such a venture. The means
for designing and implementing an automated system did eventually
Timberland was no different from other libraries in the
country during the 1970's as it observed a virtual geometric
increase in -the number of items loaned to the public which were
returned late, if at all. It required a steady increase in staff
hours, particularly in the Olympia library, to keep up with the
manual production of overdue notices and staff members were frustrated by the fact that it remained impossible to "block" a user from further borrowing until overdue materials were returned.
The opening of the new library building in Olympia simply exacerbated the situation because of increased use of that library. Circulation at the Olympia library had hovered somewhere between 250,000 and 275,000 a year in the mid-1970's. In 1979 (the first full year in a new building) 347,208 items were loaned; in 1980 the figure was 387,197 and by 1981 it had reached 420,172. The largest library in the district was being brought to its knees by the overwhelming response of a growing population. Automation of many of the tedious, repetitive and time-consuming manual functions was becoming more critical by the month. It was time for the color-coded system to go.
In late 1979 a committee comprised of representatives of the Timberland Regional Library, The Evergreen State College, and the Washington State Library was appointed to determine the full cost of the installation of an auto~ated circulation system and a plan for sharing that cost among the three institutions. Further, the committee was to present a proposal for allocation of ongoing costs following the initial implementation stage of such a project. The Circulation Implementation Task Force held its first meeting on November 5, 1979. During that first meeting the group set a target date of February 1, 1980 for completion of a final report to the directors of the three libraries. That report, issued on February
15, 1980 indicated that a joint project was possible. Plans for
its development continued.
In June of 1980 the Directors of Timberland, The Evergreen
State College, and the Washington State Library signed a document
indicating their intent to cooperate in a joint venture to obtain
an automated circulation and inventory control system. Following
that agreement a Joint Circulation System Task Force was
established to develop a Request for Vendor Proposals to be
distributed to interested firms in late 1980. There werea number
of delays in the overall process but by March of 1981 the RFP was
ready for distribution and, by October of the same year, DataPhase f}
Systems, Inc. had been selected to provide the new system.
Implementation began in August 1982. That portion of the
system dedicated to the automated ci.rculation of materials was
installed early in the process and after an equi~ment upgrade began
to function as planned. In late 1984 a computerized central
request system was introduced, utilizing the location information
now available on-line. Again, the district was united in a way
that provided vastly improved patron service. All library users in
the five county area were provided immediate information about the
availability of all library materials owned by Timberland.
Furthermore, simple inquiry into the system could assure them
timely receipt of requested materials. A vision beginning more
than a decade earlier had become a public service reality.
Unfortunately, just as the Timberland Regional Library was
able to provide such uniform services, it began to experience financial difficulties.
1. The Request System for material not found on the shelf in the library when and where the patron asked for it was the heart of Timberland's service to its patrons. To describe the evolutionary process by which Timberland improved both the efficiency and the reliability of this facet of its service could serve as the subject for a paper in its own right. The attempt here is simply to identify the change from the old "date-due" file sequence to the more efficient single file "color-coded" system, to recognize its importance in the improvement of service, and to place it in its historical context.
1. Lura G. Currier, A Physical Facilities Study for the Timberland Regional Library (unpublished report prepared for the Washington Statewide Library Development Council, Olympia, Washington 1970), p. 5.