WARRENTON - Small but mighty - and mighty thrifty. That's the Warrenton Community Library.

With just one paid employee, Gillian Maggert, working 20 hours a week, the library runs mainly on volunteer power and donations from local businesses, individuals and service clubs. A perpetual book sale supplements the meager financial support it receives from the city of Warrenton in the form of a five-year serial levy that has raised less than $30,000 a year.

That levy expires at the end of this fiscal year, and library supporters are asking Warrenton residents to vote "yes" to renew it for another five years at the same low rate. Measure 4-124, the Five Year Library Operations Local Option Serial Levy, is one of five measures (three local) on the ballot for the Nov. 6 mail-in election.

"We did not change it. We have been very thrifty," said Jan Gannaway, one of the founders of the library. A member of the nonprofit Friends of Warrenton Library (FOWL), she also serves on the library board. "If we don't have the tax levy, we can't survive," she said.

The rate for the five-year serial levy is $0.095 - less than a dime - per $1,000 of assessed property value. That means a "yes" vote will cost the owner of a $100,000 home $9.50 a year.

"It's a bargain. You couldn't even buy a new book for the amount we're asking for," said Trish Nevan, chairwoman of the library board. "The library is a vital resource for residents, and we hope people continue to support it."

The tax levy pays the library's bills for garbage collection, heat, water, electricity, the four phone lines that link the library's four computers to the Internet and Maggert's modest salary. It would raise an estimated $156,387 over the five-year period, which averages out to about $31,000 a year. At least 50 percent of Warrenton voters must cast ballots for the measure to have a chance of passing.

Since it opened in 1994, the library has become more and more popular not only with residents, but with visitors to the area. "People think this library is the cutest little thing," Maggert said. "People stop out front and take pictures."

"Yes, it has a lot of charm," agreed Gannaway.

"The real key with Warrenton Community Library is 'community.' It's not a stuffy or intimidating place," Nevan said. "We're a busy library. We're crowded, we're filled to the gills. That's a good thing - it indicates a lot of interest."

Although Maggert, a retired marine biologist, is the library's site manager, not a librarian, she knows the title and author of every book in the collection because she enters each one into the computer. Most are donated. If the title is already on the shelf, the donation goes to the ongoing book sale fund-raiser in one section of the library, where paperbacks go for 50 cents, soft-covers for $2 and hardbacks for $3. The book sale provides a steady stream of revenue for the library.

"The other day we gave out card number 2,610," Maggert said proudly, estimating the library has about 4,000 patrons. That number includes people who act as campground hosts at nearby Fort Stevens during the summer. Maggert said a refundable $20 deposit gives them access to the Warrenton library during their stay. Many donate the deposit when they leave, she said.

Library cards are free to residents of Warrenton and $10 a year for patrons who live outside the city. The cards are a passport to a 13,500-volume collection of books, plus tapes and DVDs, all housed in a 100-year-old wooden building. Just 15 feet wide and 60 feet long, it is too small to hold everything, so FOWL purchased a Tuff-Shed outbuilding to store the overflow.

The library building doesn't have enough insulation, and the bathroom lacks a fan and a light fixture, but it has no shortage of history. Moved to its present location at 861 Pacific Drive from nearby Fort Stevens State Park, it served as Hammond Town Hall for decades until the town became part of Warrenton. It's now owned by the city, which provides the building to the library rent-free.

The parking lot is almost always full during library hours: 1-5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m.-noon Saturdays. Inside, people browse the stacks, looking for new arrivals. The four computers near the entrance to the long, narrow building are busy with people checking their e-mail. People stop by to return books and stay to chat with their friends and neighbors. Children play with toys and look at books in a cheery space devoted to children's books or go outside to use the donated swing set.

Gannaway called the library a friendly place. "People come to visit. Home-schoolers use it, and Gillian goes to read to children at the school (nearby North Coast Christian) and Head Start," Gannaway said.

"The library really does meet the needs of the community," Nevan said. "It's a vital resource. We hope people continue to support the library."

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