The South Dakota Library Association is supporting legislation that would permit the creation of library districts.

The bill, which is being drafted by Sen. Bruce Rampelberg, R-Rapid City, would allow a library district to be formed for the purpose of constructing, maintaining and managing a library.

The impetus for the legislation comes from Hot Springs Mayor Don De Vries, according to Larry Nelson, a lobbyist for the South Dakota Library Association. Nelson discussed the proposed legislation with a group of librarians at the Rawlins Library in Pierre on Thursday.

In order to create a district, a petition would need to be filed with the commissioners of any counties that would be affected by the creation of the proposed library district. County commissioners would then hold a hearing to determine whether or not to hold an election regarding the issue. The legislation also provides county commissioners the option of creating the district without the formal petition process.

Rampelberg said if the proposed district were approved in an election, then the district would be implemented. The legislation would not automatically create districts, Rampelberg said. Rather, it would allow people to form a district, like firefighters or a water district, where citizens can vote to impose a levy on themselves, he explained.

Upon creation of the library district, a district would be allowed to raise money. The legislation would also create a board of trustees for the library district. The trustees would be elected.

In addition to the library district bill, some librarians expressed interest in adding libraries to the list of

community safety zones, which includes schools, public parks and pools. By designating public libraries as community safety zones, it would be illegal for convicted sex offenders to use the library for the purpose of making contact with children. “We want to ensure people’s safety,” said Stephanie Bents, a Rapid City librarian.

Adding libraries to community safety zones would require legislative action. Despite vocalized support on Thursday, the South Dakota Library Association has not been presented with any legislation pertaining to community safety zones.

The library association does not draft legislation, said Kathy Jacobs, chair of the legislative committee for the South Dakota Library Association. Rather, the association weighs in on proposed legislation that would affect South Dakota libraries.

Rampelberg said he expects to introduce the library districting legislation in the near future. Rep. Mike Verchio is sponsoring the bill in the house, Rampelberg said.

Although he said it will be difficult to pass in the Legislature due to the sensitivity of tax issues, Rampelberg remained hopeful that his colleague would understand the nature of the bill. “If they understand that it is entirely permissive and about local control – the things we believe in – maybe that will carry the day.”

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