East Hawaii News

Efforts Underway for Regional Library in Puna

February 14, 2014, 3:50 PM HST
* Updated February 14, 4:21 PM
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A County Council member from lower Puna wants his colleagues to add their voices to a call for a regional library in Puna.

Councilman Greggor Ilagan has introduced a resolution urging the state Legislature to approve a bill which would appropriate funds to study and design a new library.

Ilagan’s resolution is scheduled to be taken up by the council at its meeting Wednesday in Kona.

State Librarian Richard Burns told Big Island Now he believes a new large library would be appropriate for Puna, especially given the district’s growth, but finding funding for such a facility has been difficult.

Puna has the second-highest library usage among districts on the Big Island, trailing only South Hilo, which consists of just the library on Waianuenue Avenue.

Burns said expansion of library facilities in Puna would also take some of the pressure off the Hilo library, which is the busiest in the state.

According to figures from the Hawaii State Public Library System, in fiscal year 2012, the total circulation of books and other items at the Hilo library on Waianuenue Avenue was 481,709.

Second in circulation that year was the main library in Kapolei on Oahu with a circulation of 419,462. Oahu’s Kaimuku library was the third-busiest with a circulation of 332,562.

The Pahoa library shown above is the third-busiest on the Big Island. File photo.

Pahoa’s library, shown above, is the third-busiest library on the Big Island. File photo.

Pahoa, with annual circulation of 114,627 items, was the busiest library in Puna in 2011. It also had the third-highest circulation on the island, behind only Hilo and Kailua-Kona, which moved 168,272 items that year.

In its current form, Senate Bill 3067 would appropriate $350,000 for study and design of the library.

Sen. Russell Ruderman, who represents Puna and part of Ka`u, is one of the bill’s primary sponsors, along with fellow Big Island Sen. Josh Green.

The bill has been referred to two committees, Education and Ways and Means, but has stalled without a hearing scheduled.

Ruderman said today that he was told by Sen. Jill Tokuda, chair of the Senate’s Education Committee, that the bill would not get a hearing because it is not the proper vehicle for funding the library study. (Ironically, Tokuda is one of the bill’s sponsors.)

Ruderman said as a result he has inserted the funding into the Senate’s capital improvement budget, which will be taken up later in the session.

“It’s my No. 1 priority in the CIP budget,” he said.

Ruderman said the situation is dire at the Pahoa library, which is crowded and has only six parking spots for both users and staff.

According to Ilagan’s resolution, Puna, which has the fastest-growing population in the state, has outgrown the Pahoa library which is shared with Pahoa’s public schools.

In fact, half of the island’s dozen libraries do double-duty with schools, and three of those — including Keaau and Mountain View — are in Puna. The others are Laupahoehoe, Pahala and Thelma Parker in Waimea.

Despite its high circulation, Ilagan’s resolution said the Pahoa library staff consists of only four full-time workers, two part-timers and a half-time janitor. It also said there has been no school librarian at the library since 2009.

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