Finally, all Whatcom County libraries are putting together a cooperative agreement. Starting later this summer, any local library card holder can check out a book from any local library and return it to any other library.
Thus, a person with a Bellingham Library card can check out books at Western Washington University or Whatcom Community College - and return the books to the Bellingham Library. Details are still being worked out, but you may be able to reserve the book online and then pick it up at the most convenient library near where you live or work. Lets hope they set up the agreement that way - as it then makes the process 'green.' It would be nice if they invited the public to comment or participate in this planning - but apparently that is not to be. Secrecy and surprise announcement are the local way.
The project was the idea of new WWU President Bruce Shepard. He pushed to get the various library administrations together and work out a deal that actually benefits the citizens. Of course in this tight economic time, such a move also serves as goodwill for budget requests from various government agencies. And this cooperative process costs very little for the different library systems. Very little.
As is usual with new government projects in our community, the various libraries agreed to keep mum and let the Bellingham Herald have the scoop on the story. Most citizens don't realize how routine that practice is. A mayor or board will notify the Herald of a planned process, sometimes weeks ahead, and the Herald agrees to keep quiet until the plan is complete. This is not reporting - it is being a Public Relations agency for governments. The Herald aids government secrecy - not transparency.
But I digress. This cooperative library system is a long-desired step forward in library services for local taxpayers. We pay for the Mabel Zoe Wilson Library at Western. We pay for the one at Whatcom Community College, the Whatcom County Library System and the Bellingham Library. Hopefully, Western will designate some convenient parking lot for non-campus users - otherwise it could be a real problem finding parking there.
From the Bellingham Library Administration's view, this is another step in trying to avoid building branch or small libraries in neighborhoods that are far from the main library downtown. Well, it won't cut it. Being able to go to Western or to WCC at Cordata is no help to those in Silver Beach or Yew Street. Birchwood is still across I-5 from WCC. Cordata residents will not find the books they desire to read at WCC. We do not need a new $60 million downtown Taj Mahal library. We need three or four small $8 million libraries situated in neighborhoods like Cordata, Silver Beach, Birchwood and Yew Street/Lakeway. That saves taxes, is much 'greener,' and provides much better service to all residents. Also, libraries double as community meeting rooms and resources. We who live in Fairhaven treasure our library and only hope other outlying parts of the city will also get their own libraries soon.
So, we welcome this new exchange and cooperative service from all our local libraries. We thank Bruce Shepard - who is new to our area - for pushing this on the administrations who have ignored it for decades.
Many of us look forward - when the economy gets better - to working toward funding a citizen approved levy for three or four small libraries costing only half the planned $60 million of a huge and wasteful downtown library.