While Seattle just opened a fantastic new $165.5 million library, the government of Guam cannot afford an additional $11,000 a year to hire an actual librarian to run the Guam Public Library. The government says that the library is not a priority right now, and must wait for the economy to improve before much needed funding can be appropriated for the library system. While a recently passed law requires the library director to be a qualified professional librarian, the current $55,000 salary is too low to entice any professionals to the island. According to the Civil Service Commission, bumping the salary to $66,000 a year would make recruitment efforts much easier. For an additional $273,000 a year, the library system could afford to reopen four branch libraries in the villages of Merizo, Yona, Barrigada and Agat that closed over four years ago due to budget cutbacks and government furlough programs.
Recent media attention on the long mothballed “Bookmobile” program that quit running almost eight years ago spurred several private companies to donate their services and get the bookmobile back on the road. Matson Navigation really stepped forward in this project, repairing the bookmobile, donating $25,000 to fund the bookmobile program, and pledging continued servicing for the vehicle in the years ahead. Kudos also go to South Pacific Petroleum Company, for donating free fuel for a year to the bookmobile, and Chugach Support Services for prepping the main library building for painting.
Hopefully these public/private partnerships will spur renewed interest in the library, because it is in a terrible state. I’ve often said it, I was aghast at the library when I first came to Guam, and it still depresses me to visit the building: it looks like they haven’t bought a book since 1973, the air conditioning didn’t work for years, mold and mildew where everywhere, the stairwell was unpainted. Basically the place is a mess, and indicative of the poor state of education and cultural facilities on the island.