Big wins for WA libraries in the 2019 legislative session

Big wins for WA libraries in the 2019 legislative session

The 2019 legislative session has ended, and thanks to the hard work of many people, libraries across Washington will benefit immensely. The Office of the Secretary of State, which oversees the Washington State Library, played a huge part in making that success a reality. There is so much good news to report!

First, thanks to library advocates everywhere. Lawmakers included eleven rural libraries around the state in the capital budget. Each of these libraries will receive funds to improve their building infrastructure — or in the case of La Conner and Sedro Woolley, to build a new library as a result of the formation of a new library district. And most importantly, there will be a permanent place in future budgets for library capital projects.

The libraries receiving funding in this biennium are:

  1. Asotin County Library Building, Phase II
  2. Birch Bay Vogt Community Library (Whatcom County Library District)
  3. La Conner Regional Library (new library district)
  4. Mount Vernon Public Library
  5. Roslyn Public Library
  6. Sedro-Woolley Library (new Central Skagit Library District)
  7. Silverdale Library (Kitsap Regional Library District)
  8. Union Gap Library and Community Center (Yakima Valley Libraries)
  9. Winthrop Library (North Central Library District)
  10. Woodland Community Library (Fort Vancouver Regional Library District)
  11. Yale Valley Community Library (new Yale Valley Library district)

At the beginning of the legislative session there was a lot of tension about the fate of school libraries, but the Legislature came through and explicitly directed $20.79 per student FTE in the 2019/20 school year and $21.23 per student FTE in 2020/21 be used for school library resources.

It also passed an important bill to allow school districts to raise their levy lid to fund enrichment activities beyond basic education, giving school districts more local fundraising capacity. Additionally, the Legislature allocated $1.8 million so that libraries can provide workforce development resources. Those resources include statewide access to Microsoft Imagine Academy and training resources and certifications for important job competencies, like Microsoft Office, Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, Intuit QuickBooks, and Unity (used for VR programming). This program allows anyone in Washington to keep their job skills up to date and meet industry standards, all from their local library.

The Washington Talking Book & Braille Library (WTBBL) received full authorization for the budget increase it requested. WTBBL serves nearly 10,000 Washington residents all over the state who cannot read standard print by providing free audiobook and Braille resources. About 30 percent of the population WTBBL serves is elderly, but it also serves the blind and those with low vision, those with reading disabilities, and those with physical disabilities that prevent them from being able to hold a book.

The Legislature also funded the resources needed to furnish a new prison library in Walla Walla, where the Department of Corrections is constructing a new program building in the South Complex. The State Library will provide the additional staff for in-prison library services — bringing to 10 the number of staff the State Library provides to medium and maximum security prisons across the state. The new building is projected to open in September.

A state rural broadband bill also passed, promising connectivity to every corner of the state. Internet access in small rural communities are often provided by libraries, who know where many of the service gaps across the state exist. The State Library will be a stakeholder in this effort, working with the state’s broadband office to help build a strategy for guaranteeing access to all. This will allow all citizens to have access to the services libraries provide, like online databases and e-books. 

And finally, saving the biggest news for last, after a 15-year effort, the Secretary of State finally received approval for a funding plan to build a new State Library-Archives Building. The State Archives ran out of space in 2006 and the library’s historic collections have been housed in a temporary building since the Nisqually earthquake precipitated a move to their current location. The new facility will house several divisions of the Secretary of State’s Office — the State Library, State Archives, Corporations & Charities, Elections, and Community Programs — and provide protection and better, customer-focused access to our state’s records and library collections.

Did we say big wins? Make that massive wins! Thank you to all our state legislators for supporting our state’s libraries.

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