This is the second post reacting to this week’s article in the Nisqually Valley News on the Yelm library situation.
The question is, if Yelm is an annexed part of the Timberland Library District, and city residents pay the same tax rate for library services that county residents do, why is the city of Yelm on the hook for building a library? The city really isn’t (as you can see here), but I’ll use this post to try to explain why people think that.
When the Timberland District was formed in the late 60’s, it was formed as a rural library district whose goal was to provide library service to residents outside city boundaries. But, even during the planning stages of TRL, city libraries served a crucial role in the district. Even though a number of cities (including Yelm and Olympia) annexed into Timberland almost immediately, there are structural problems with state law that prevent rural library districts and cities from seeing eye to eye.
In short, city’s can always leave the rural library district. RCW 27.12.380 allows for a popular vote within an annexed city to withdraw.
Our current library director even cited deletion of the above RCW as a way to ease district ownership of library buildings inside city boundaries in his early 80’s thesis.
As the number of cities that first contracted and then annexed into the Timberland district grew in the 1970s and 80s, the question of who should pay for building a library inside city limits was raised. From what I know, the feeling with the Timberland library trustees has been that they didn’t want to be possibly left owning a building inside the boundaries of a city that had decided to pull out of the district.
City ownership of libraries served by a rural library district also isn’t unique to Timberland. The same pattern emerges in the North Central Library system, where cities like Moses Lake and Wenatchee own buildings operated by the North Central District.
In my last post, I’ll cover why the city vs. library district ownership dilemma really isn’t a dilemma after all.