Touchet 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.