During a special City Council meeting held Oct. 3, a $200,000 revenue stream badly needed by the Walla Walla Public Library to maintain current staffing and service levels, was rejected.
This was a 6 percent increase over the amount negotiated last year by the city and the Walla Walla Rural Library District. Walk-in checkout and computer privileges for RLD residents at the Walla Walla library would continue. In short, there would be more money for city library operations than last year (if the city maintained its contribution), with no additional obligation for service outside the city.
Negotiators City Manager Nabiel Shawa and Mayor Barbara Clark set the tone of the Council meeting with heated remarks. Negotiations were characterized as "broken" with the RLD efforts made "not in good faith."
The Council was urged to reject the current RLD counter-offer, to end negotiations, and to discontinue walk-in service for RLD residents. Council member Dominick Elia asked whether it might be prudent to continue negotiations, accept the $200,000, and maintain current library staffing and open hours for the residents of Walla Walla. He was the sole abstention among members of the Council present.
Following the vote, city library Director Beth Hudson was directed to begin withdrawal proceedings from WALNET and to manage the purchase of and migration to a stand alone library catalog and circulation system by Jan. 1, 2012.
Clearly, it is the Walla Walla community in general, city library staff in particular, that will feel the impact of our library going it alone with the city as its sole source of funding.
Personally, I do not see the logic in rejecting an outside revenue stream that, over the years, the city library has used to stabilize services to Walla Walla patrons in the face of declining contributions from the city's general fund. However, the city's orchestrated decision to cancel the RLD contract may well clarify for city residents the critical need for dedicated, adequate and sustainable funding for core library services.
As a property taxpayer in Walla Walla - I do not expect the RLD to represent my best interests - I expect the city to do so. Future Valley library cooperative efforts and continued work toward consolidation need to move forward with informed, honest and positive participants.