City of Walla Walla has grossly profited from RLD's generosity


— A number of letters, columns, editorials and articles have been written in regard to the inability of the Rural Library District and the Walla Walla Public Library to come to an agreement on a contract. I don't feel all the facts have been aired.

First of all, the RLD was ethically bound to not discuss any of the meetings that were held over the first six months of this year, as these were negotiation sessions and work sessions to see if there was a way to come to a meeting of the minds.

Nothing was leaked by the RLD as it tried in every way possible to come to a point of agreement.

After six months and no solutions, both sides realized there was no way to come to an agreement that was fair to city and rural library taxpayers and library users.

The amount the city has requested to service the people in Fire Districts 4 and 8 has been a bone of contention for many years. It has repeatedly made the WWPL ask for more and more from the RLD while shirking its responsibility to its own people by underfunding its library and insisting the RLD take up the slack.

The amount for this year is a whopping $245,000 for around 10,000 persons of which only about 1,700 actually use the library. WWPL wanted $295,000.

It is not the RLD's responsibility to fund the city library. Walla Walla citizens should be saying "shame on you" to their city fathers who have allowed this to continue for over a decade. The funding for rural library patrons to use the WWPL should be a bonus to an already healthy city library system and be considered extra cash flow.

This inequality has been a thorn is the side of the RLD for at least 10 years that I am aware of. I can only imagine what these kinds of funds could have been doing for all the people of the RLD, including the Library Users Coalition.

They could have had a beautiful library years ago that was every bit as user friendly and had programming for all ages too. The RLD cannot help that the city was not forthright with its citizens and underfunding its library.

The RLD has been a good steward of the district's funds. Over the years, money was saved and invested, instead of squandering it or using it for frivolity. Why should the rest of the county's patrons be penalized over a few angry people? This is not just an issue for the WWPL. There are children and elderly who cannot drive who depend on the rural libraries for materials and programming.

Currently the Plaza Library is a temporary stopgap until a beautiful, full-functioning library is built. This full functioning library will be for the patrons of the county, wherever you live. It will provide programming for children and adults and a wealth of materials.

Some are saying this is a duplication of services. That is simply not the truth.

While the RLD was paying huge sums of money to the Walla Walla Public Library, the public library was borrowing three to four times as much material from the RLD as the RLD was borrowing from the public library. So even with RLD additional funding, there was not enough money and materials to keep the public library patrons happy.

The RLD patrons often had to wait weeks and months for new materials that were supposed to be at their branch. They never got a chance to see the new items as they were reserved by many Walla Walla patrons.

Along with this, the public library did not allow the RLD to interlibrary loan videos, DVDs, CDs and other materials. But the RLD did allow WWPL patrons to borrow such items from the rural libraries.

Until this year, the agreements always called for sharing of services. It appears to me the RLD was doing most of the sharing and the WWPL was getting most the benefits. Where is the equity in this?

The city of Walla Walla has profited grossly from the generosity of the RLD for the last decade. If this was a new thing or a one-time occurrence of a shortfall of funds that would be one thing, but this has been going on for years.

The negotiations have gotten more and more difficult each year. It is time for the WWPL to expect the city to do the right thing and fund its own library and it's time for the RLD to stop allowing the city and WWPL to be dependents.

Carlotta Richardson is Touchet Branch manager for Walla Walla Rural Library District.


oldguyonabike 2 years, 10 months ago

As I understand the contributions from property owners in Fire District 4 and 8 amount to nearly $800,000 while less than half this amount was allocated to the library that serves these taxpayers. So to state that WWPL was grossly overpaid is not valid. RLD's refusal to pursue consolidation of library services for the Walla Walla taxpayers is ridiculous.


Carlotta 2 years, 10 months ago

For the city to refuse to fund it's library adequately for over ten years is rediculous.


oldguyonabike 2 years, 10 months ago

Agreed. But ridiculous + rediculous does not equal equitable revenue distribution.


blue_streak 2 years, 10 months ago

I can agree with Carlotta Richardson that the City Council has been irresponsible in underfunding the WWPL, and that negotiations between the City and the RLD have been painful -- to both sides.

I cannot agree that the solution is to build a separate, central library available only to county residents.

Carlotta sidesteps the issue of duplication and redundancy that is inherent in the RLD's proposed new library. Whether or not the two library systems would duplicate "services" depends on how you define "services."

There is no question, however, that the proposed RLD central library would have its own cataloging, acquisition, and administration costs. Having two library systems with two highly-paid executive directors in a community of our size is a ridiculous waste.

She is also mistaken in thinking that opposition to the proposed RLD central library comes from "a few angry people."

It has been two months since the Library Working Group, with little or no explanation, threw in the towel on the idea of annexation or consolidation of services. Since that time, not a single member of the community (that I'm aware of) has stepped forward, in public meetings or letters to the U-B to support the idea of a new, county-only public library. Not one.

During that time, the LUC has held several meetings, collected names, and organized effective communication with both RLD and City Council members. How many meetings has the "Citizens for Separate Libraries" held? How many members belong to this hypothetical group?

Until the RLD trustees can explain why there's not a shred of public support for their plans, no contracts or arrangements for a new central library should go forward.


Carlotta 2 years, 10 months ago

I suspect you may be mistaken about those who support the RLD. The truth is being told.


Carlotta 2 years, 10 months ago

The RLD already has a director, staff, cataloging, aquistitions, and administrative costs in place. The only thing they are missing is a building to do their business. The now have it divided between TWO places Jade Stree and Plaza. Nothing is duplicated that we don't already have EXCEPT an adequate building.

Thr RLD is not opposed to annexation. Just not at this time.


blue_streak 2 years, 10 months ago

Carlotta, that is precisely the point of annexation / consolidation.

The WWPL also "already has a director, staff, cataloging, acquisitions, and administrative staff in place." The point of annexation or consolidation is to combine and reduce those expenses.

I am simply not persuaded that the private meetings held by the "working group" adequately explored the benefits of combining these two systems.

I can understand why an administrative space better than Jade Street (or the Carnegie building, for pete sake!) is urgently needed.

An additional central library, with its own staffing and administration, not so much.

  • Bart Preecs

Chas 2 years, 10 months ago

August 14, page A5, RLD Statement: Section 3, A Complicated Story, 1: City assessed $.95/1000 has fallen in ten years to $.35/1000, has convinced me the RLD has entirely valid complaints. The RLD self-interest of its patrons and the City's self-interest of a cash cow are not the same. Good letter! Thank you for the advertisement in today's U-B! Will probably receive all the perusal as the recent participation of election, sadly. That said, I wish the RLD would consider renovating existing real-estate rather than new construction.


Carlotta 2 years, 10 months ago

It's good to see level heads are out there. I suspect one of the issues is finding something in the "right" area and older buildings tend to have wiring, remodelling and other issues. I agree, if there was the right fit, it would be wonderful.


0324633 2 years, 10 months ago

The WWPL has neither the staffing, the infrastructure or the culture to expand services to the Walla Walla Valley. It doesn't have courier, belongs to no resource sharing or cataloging consortia and struggles with technical training of suppport staff. Administratively, although the public library is considered a city department, the Library Director has little authority with considerable oversight provided by the City Council and City Manager and the employee union. The staff is small with one full-time and several part-time professionals. The WWPL Board has advisory status only - getting to make decisions on such things as the provision of coffee in the building. Having no branches or other outlets, the WWPL does not qualify as a central library. It maintains its own in-house operations with limitations inherant in this particular type of municiple government and unknown funding. There is really no comparison to be made in terms of duplication with the RLD personnel, partnerships, responsibilities, capacity, experience and skill sets. Even with a new building the District can be 'run' by a District Librarian, the Board and an Administrative Assistant.

The LWG should have come up with a plan for consolidation, I agree. If you look at the notes - there was no effort made to form a common vision - let alone with great glee figure out how to make it happen! The dueling budgets were not the far apart. A spread sheet was also drawn up that did consolidate administrative and technical services in one building - that made the revenue and expenditure streams very close.

Neighbors across the street can't use the same libraries because WWPL withdrew from WALNET & OCLC (local and national resource sharing and catalog consortiums) - not because a new library building will be built in the Valley.

If for some odd reason - the RLD decided to increase its operational cost by annexing the WWPL instead of building a new facility (apparently the road block for the City - we won't let you annex us if you build a new facility). Those annual maintenance 'savings' would simply continue to subsidize (not supplement) basic operations of the WWPL.

I believe annexation will happen - might have to happen for Waitsburg and College Place first. Unfortunately, the RLD has wasted time on the City for two years of 'yes we do no we don't' discussions and now must move forward with or without its blessings.

Darcy Dauble


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