August 16, 2012
The full-page ad in yesterday's U-B (Aug. 14, page A5) by the directors of the Walla Walla Rural Library District (RLD) had some important, valid points to make.
However, it's disappointing that the RLD board chose the most expensive, least interactive method to explain its side of the library story. I wish the board had held a public meeting back in June to explain the RLD’s plans, and why they decided not to follow the plan offered by Ruth Metz last year.
It's also disappointing that the board took such a defensive, reactive approach to the questions.
In journalism jargon, the RLD ad "buried the lead" in making its case against the City of Walla Walla and in favor of their plan to build a separate county library.
The strongest case against the City's library funding history is based on three facts (with my comments in parentheses):
The City withdrew from the WALNET consortium in January 2012, a decision that the RLD says "reversed a 20-year trend of cooperative models for service ... which significantly diminished service to City and Country patrons alike." (The decision to leave WALNET was originally taken one year earlier; the action seriously undercuts the City’s claim that it supports cooperation and consolidation of library services.)
The contracts between the City and the RLD required the City to fund the WWPL at a level comparable to the tax rate paid by RLD taxpayers. (If the City did break those contract requirements, I’d like to hear an explanation from City leaders.)
The City has refused to sell WWPL cards to non-residents – at any price. (Again this speaks to the City’s readiness to cooperate. I've heard the City Manager and the Library Director try to justify this policy at three different public meetings. Repetition has not made the explanation any more credible. You can't accept money from non-residents because you can't predict in advance how much you'll get? Seriously? Please let me know which crystal ball you're using to predict the sales tax revenue from say, Christmas 2013.)
The fact that the City Council has been irresponsible and resorted to little more than bullying to force the RLD to pay for access to the WWPL does not, repeat does not,mean that the best solution to the community's overall library needs is to build and staff a separate library for county residents.
The best solution is the one Walla Walla taxpayers have already paid for: Annex the WWPL into the RLD.
Obviously any agreement to consolidate library service in our area will require some new thinking about governance—and probably some new people in leadership positions.
Moving ahead with building plans that have little or no public support is just not acceptable.
- Bart Preecs
In response to:
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.