On April 20, Mid-Columbia Libraries opened its 12th branch at 7525 Wrigley Drive, just off of Road 68, in Pasco. We celebrated with a crowd of more than 1,000 local residents who came to experience their new West Pasco Branch.
People who visited this library said it’s “incredible” and “not like any library” they’re used to seeing. This library is a great example of vitality, collaboration, innovation, technology, comfort — all the positive things you hear about Tri-Cities — embodied in a library. This is a true “Tri-Cities” library.
The vitality of the Tri-Cities’ economy is one reason this vibrant, new library can exist. Many of us take for granted how unusual it is for any community to receive additional library service in the current economic climate. Around the state and nation, many of our peer libraries have had to reduce staff, cut service hours and shutter branches to simply survive.
But our region’s robust economy and property values have allowed our library system to flourish despite tough times for the state and nation. On top of that, Mid-Columbia Libraries’ responsible financial practices and persistent drive to improve efficiencies enabled us to fund the new library entirely within our current operating budget, at no additional cost to taxpayers. We are proud that no public debt was involved in developing and operating this library.
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Although the Tri-Cities consist of multiple cities and overlapping agencies, we collaborate very well. Take for example the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Regional Public Facilities District, our counties’ and cities’ inter-local agreement to regionalize emergency communications and the partnerships between our fire districts. And as our region’s inter-county library district, Mid-Columbia Libraries itself is a great example of how one agency can serve to combine resources from across multiple counties and cities to achieve an economy of scale that lets us maximize new books and branch locations while minimizing overhead and administrative costs.
Because of the support and the commitment of all but one community in Benton and Franklin counties, Mid-Columbia Libraries is able to provide our taxpayers with more than $1 million invested in new materials every year, including our region’s largest and most robust eBook and downloadable audiobook collection.
On opening day, I met customers from all over the Tri-Cities who were excited to use the new library, including some from outside of our service area who were willing to pay for access to our continually re-invested collection. This enthusiasm is a testament to the excellent work of countless Mid-Columbia Libraries staff.
Comfort was a key theme in designing this branch. Before beginning our design process, we surveyed more than 1,500 local residents and asked what you most value in a new library. You told us convenience and comfort. The drive-thru speaks to convenience, but we didn’t overlook the comfortable lifestyle that Tri-Citians value. We designed a library with relaxed seating, free Wi-Fi throughout and plenty of natural light. We also commissioned custom art from local artists — flying books, lifelike trees and toadstools and a lively mural.
The art creates a magical feeling that reflects the wonders we can discover within the walls of the library and the covers of a book.
The Tri-Cities’ tendency toward collaboration and its healthy economy support innovation. Battelle’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory earns awards and patents for its innovations in science. Our school districts are honored for their innovations in improving learning and offering STEM education. Innovation is also evident in your new library.
Mid-Columbia Libraries has implemented several new approaches to customer service that haven’t been seen before in our region. First, we’ve made it easier to find topical information all in one place by interfiling our nonfiction audiobooks and DVDs with the books on the same topic. If you come looking for information on a certain topic, you will find every format of that information together on one shelf. Also, staff now use tablet computers, liberating them from the service desk with technology at their fingertips. The tablet service model is one example of how technology has been used to enhance your experience at the library.
The facility isn’t designed for technology, but for services to be enhanced by technology.
Above all, our most prominent innovation at the west Pasco branch is the drive-thru, the first of its kind in Eastern Washington. Busy families, customers with mobility issues and residents who are in a hurry can quickly return their library items and pick up their holds without ever leaving their cars.
Discover your newest library in the shadow of the Pasco water towers — a building that capably achieves convenience, comfort and cutting edge technology, while maintaining a sense of wonder and learning. Our energetic, intrepid staff poured their hearts and souls into creating this place for you to enjoy and explore time and again. Take the time to visit us soon. I guarantee you’ll enjoy yourself.
Kyle P. Cox is executive director of Mid-Columbia Libraries.