Voters may be asked to support the library system with a county-wide ballot measure in the coming months, depending on the recommendations of two well-known strategists who visited Siskiyou County last week.

Voters may be asked to support the library system with a county-wide ballot measure in the coming months, depending on the recommendations of two well-known strategists who visited Siskiyou County last week.

George Needham and Joan Frye Williams were commissioned by the California State Library to help Siskiyou County libraries navigate through a crippling 80 percent budget cut, said library director Lisa Musgrove.

After becoming familiar with the unique nature of the area and speaking with the community, County Administration Officer Brian McDermott and the Board of Supervisors, the pair will formulate a game plan. They will present their plan sometime in the fall, Needham said.

Members of the Mount Shasta, Dunsmuir and Weed Friends of the Library groups met on Friday to speak with Needham.

“It’s only fair to say, right out of the gate, that we might recommend a change to the traditional library system,” Needham told the Friends as they gathered around a table at the Mount Shasta branch library. “We may say you can deliver the same services using different techniques than you’ve used in the past... you may have to swallow deeply and look at some new ideas.”

Today’s technology offers a “cornucopia” of options, from books in print to text online to video, Needham said. However, “one medium doesn’t necessarily knock out another... What we need to find is an intelligent plan that makes sense in this 20th century world.”

If the survey reveals that voters would likely support parcel tax or a sales tax levy to fund the library, a measure could be brought foward in a special election as soon as March 2011, Musgrove said.

Needham warned that the county library system will probably never go back to how it was in 2005 when the budget was steady. However, he’s confident that some form of the system can be maintained.

“So far, from what we can see, the support is there, but the money is not,” he said.

According to Musgrove, 29,000 Siskiyou County residents have a library card. With a total population of 43,000, this figure is higher than the state average.

Currently, five of the county’s 12 library branches remain open with limited hours. The funding to make this happen is trickling in from a bare bones county budget and hearty infusions from individual communities.

Though volunteers and donors have been instrumental thus far, Needham raised the question whether or not public libraries should depend solely on contributions from the community.

“There must be a steady stream of income to keep the institution running dependably,” he said, “and that’s what Joan and I are here find.”

Needham and Williams plan to visit Siskiyou County several more times in the next few months, and welcome comments and suggestions. You can reach them by emailing hello@georgeandjoan.com.