Library reality


September 14, 2023

To the Editor,

A video from a private anti-library Facebook group emerged the other day. In it, Pro-dissolution spokesperson, Jessica Ruffcorn makes several false claims. The worst of these is that dissolving the CCRLD and shuttering the library are two separate actions. Ms. Ruffcorn claims to have “found out and reviewed and confirmed,” that “the building, the trusts, money, the equipment, the furniture and the pre-district collection” will revert to city ownership, “which means we will have a budget to run a library, at least temporarily until we figure out what’s going on and who we want to run it and how we want to set it up.” 

I’m not sure what research methods were employed to “find out, review and confirm” the claims made in the video, but they didn’t seem to include talking to actual experts. If her committee triumphs in November, it will be a Pyrrhic victory- a win that devastates both sides. If the CCRLD is dissolved, there will be nothing left to run a library, even temporarily. There will be NO books, NO budget, NO computers, NO internet, NO staff, NO programs, and NO library at all in Columbia County. If this dissolution happens, it will be unprecedented in the state of Washington. Much is unknown, but here are some things we do know:

The money: Unspent and reserve funds will NOT be transferred to the city. According to treasurer Carla Rowe’s research, any unspent or reserve funds that remain will be handed over to the county commissioners. By law, it cannot be given to the city, as Ms. Ruffcorn suggests.

The trusts: There are three. According to the annexation agreement the city made with the CCRLD, the trusts will return to the city. These trusts earn enough to offset some of the annual maintenance for the building- but the amount is not significant. 

The furniture: The furniture will be disposed of. No chairs, no desks, no shelves- not that there will be anything to put on them because…

“Pre-district collection”: About 30,000 items would be boxed up and sent to the state library. It’s actually the pre-annexation collection that would remain, however in either case, that’s not many items. Mainly what would be left is the local history reference collection. It’s a great resource, but hardly a dynamic or diverse collection. 

And it gets worse because according to the state librarian, “The state library has recently upgraded IT infrastructure at the Columbia County Rural Library District with an investment of approximately $60,000. The hardware for this IT investment will revert to the state library and be redistributed to another library. It also removes the Columbia County Rural Library District from the consortium which gives connectivity discounts going forward. Additional state library sponsored support for e-resources, project grants and professional development also will no longer be available.”

The building and equipment: yes, the building and equipment will return to the city. Thanks to the careful stewardship of the CCRLD Board of Trustees and directors, the district was able to make many much-needed updates and repairs to the building without taking out loans. As beautiful and well maintained as the building is currently, an empty building is not a library.

A library run by city council: A municipal library is not governed by the city council; it has an appointed board. Furthermore, the reason the CCRLD was formed in the first place is that the city library could not meet the needs of the community. Going back just doesn’t make sense. The CCRLD saved our library, and without it, all we’ll have is yet another empty building.

The committee for dissolution is trying to sell you a bill of goods. They know the idea that we might be able to rebuild or temporarily run a library after a “yes” vote makes the extreme action of dissolution more palatable. Even if there was a path toward a library, the committee for dissolution and Ms. Ruffcorn, can’t get out of their own way to build one that serves everyone in the community. If there’s to be a library, it must be run by the person of their choosing, and with books and services they approve of. But there is no plan in place to make it happen, just a vague idea and some sleight of hand. Don’t let them fool you. If the district dissolves, the library goes with it.

Amy Rosenberg

Dayton, Wash.


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