Rural Library Board makes solid offer

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The ultimate goal must be to ensure folks inside and outside the city have access to library services. The offer would seem to be a step toward that end.

The Walla Walla County Rural Library District Board did more than agree to reimburse the city for library service for rural residents on Tuesday, it took action that could lead to long-term cooperation between the libraries within the county.

And that's likely to serve the Walla Walla community inside and outside the city limits.

The Rural Library Board and the city of Walla Walla library were at odds over fair compensation for allowing rural residents full access to the city library. By the Rural Libary Board paying an annual fee to the city, county residents don't have to pay $135 to obtain a non-resident library card.

The funds collected by the city are essential for the city library to operate in a way that serves the needs of all in the community.

But Rural Library officials felt the agreed upon fee of $188,408 was too steep and wanted to reduce the payment to $125,000. The lower fee wasn't sufficient in the minds of city officials as they felt it wouldn't cover the costs of serving county residents.

The disagreement threatened to shatter what has been a good arrangement.

On Tuesday the Rural Library Board agreed to pay the $188,000 fee with a few conditions. One of the conditions calls for a consultant to be hired by the city to look at library services throughout the county to sort out just who should pay for what. The other condition is that city must stay in the Walla Walla Area Library Network and for the city to take part in universal lending for all WALNET participants.

The offer seems reasonable assuming the cost of the consultant is also reasonable.

Folks throughout the Walla Walla Valley are paying taxes, although in different forms, to fund library services. The goal here is not to build the biggest library system, but to ensure all residents have full access to the various libraries and their services.

Allowing rural residents to use the city library is important. It's equally important that city residents have access to county library resources through WALNET so that more material is available.

About 45 people attended the Tuesday meeting. Those who spoke urged the Rural Library Board to work through its differences with the city so that library services to both city and rural residents would not be affected.

"I've listened to people on both sides and people on both sides care deeply about the education of (their) children," one woman said. "We strongly urge the employment of a facilitator to work out an agreement. Go forth, hire a facilitator and do good."

Well said.

The action taken this week would seem to be the route to achieving that goal.



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