COLLEGE PLACE — The city with no public library may have to drop that notation next month.
As part of the Aug. 6 primary election, College Place residents will weigh in on whether to annex the city into the Walla Walla County Rural Library District. The question will be on the ballots mailed to voters in the city starting this week.
If the annexation is approved, landowners would be subject to a property tax levy for the library district of 47 cents per $1,000 of assessed property valuation.
The City Council in March approved going forward with a vote on annexation and Walla Walla County commissioners in April approved putting the measure on the Aug. 6 ballot.
The issue of providing library services to city residents is not a new one. Between 2000 and 2010, the city had a program that reimbursed residents for a portion of the costs of a library card, but the program ended in 2011.
In an email, Mayor Harvey Crowder said that in a 2017 community survey done by the city “two things came to the surface as wants: children’s recreation and library services.”
City officials that year explored how to provide library services with the city of Walla Walla, Walla Walla University, College Place Public Schools, the rural library district and Mid-Columbia Library District, but no action was taken.
The demand for library services was again highlighted in 2018 after the City Council approved putting $3,000 in the budget to allow residents to purchase library cards from either Walla Walla or the Walla Walla County Rural Library District.
The money, which was distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, was exhausted within hours of becoming available on the first day it was offered.
Rhonda Gould, library district executive director, said if the annexation is approved as soon as the results are certified College Place residents will have access to all five of the district’s branch libraries, as well as all online materials such as e-books and audio books.
“Residents will be able to go to any of our branches and obtain a library card and have access to all of our materials that require check out, including physical items and digital items ... that require patron authentication,” she said.
Gould said the district’s long-term plan is to move the district’s service center in Walla Walla and its Plaza Way library branch to district-owned property in College Place because the leases on both buildings will expire in four years.
“We will be doing strategic planning later this year to start that process and (will) include the community of College Place to ascertain their needs,” she said. Putting an interim library in College Place in the meantime is also part of the district’s plan, she said.
In his email, Crowder noted College Place is the largest community in the state without a public library.
“Libraries are more than a collection of books,” he wrote. “They are a source of information, education, entertainment and a gathering place for the community. As a city official I cannot tell people how to vote, (but) what I can say is that I believe having a library in the city will enhance the quality of life for the entire community.”