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Community News Focus

Q & A

November 11, 1994

Sherri Butterfield, Mission Viejo Library Foundation

Fed up with an undersized library that the community outgrew in the late 1970s, Mission Viejo began searching for novel ways to fund a 25,000-square-foot, $5-million library.

After paying $2.5 million for a site at Marguerite Parkway and La Paz Road, city officials began negotiating a land swap with a developer to help pay for library construction.

In exchange for a parcel of city-owned land in Mission Viejo and about $2 million, the developer will build the library and grant the city a smaller piece of property next to the library site that could be used for a future City Hall.

The city also got the county to agree to turn over about $900,000 in annual tax revenues to pay for running the new library. Times correspondent Frank Messina recently discussed the project with Sherri Butterfield, chairwoman of the Mission Viejo Library Foundation.

Q: What's the difference between the library services Mission Viejo receives now and what will be in the new library?

A: Right now, the library is so small, in order to add a volume, they have to take one off the shelves. They have between 60,000 to 80,000 books. We'd eventually like to have 160,000 to 180,000 books. They are open 31 hours per week, and frankly, it's hard to find a time when the library is open. Our first realistic target for the new library is 50 hours, and I'd like to see us get to 60 hours. That will depend on money and demand.

Q: What have been the biggest obstacles to building a new library?

A: A library isn't a fire department and it isn't a crime issue. For that reason, it's difficult to get people in a position of power to view this as an essential service. In surveys we've done, people in Mission Viejo rank library services in the same category as hospital, fire and police. But unfortunately, any time the state or county needed to cut their budget, the first place they looked was the library. Libraries have been the first to suffer budget cuts.

Q: What will this library mean to Mission Viejo?

A: What this does for a community is provide a gathering place where people can get together for learning, knowledge and cultural enrichment. We have a large number of families in the city with children who need this library within the next six years or their children are grown and gone. That's why it's important for us to get this library built as soon as possible.

Q: Why has the library been so long in coming?

A: It has taken the city a while to realize that the county was not holding up its end of the bargain. For $900,000 in property taxes for library service (received from taxpayers), the county has been providing about $500,000 in actual delivered service. It took a while for the City Council to realize this.

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