McDonald Commentary: Timberland Regional Library Expands Services in Thurston

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June 1 marks the grand opening of a new 3,000-square-foot Timberland Regional Library branch at the Capital Mall in West Olympia.

It’s exciting for Thurston County residents to have another easily accessible library branch — in addition to those in Lacey, Olympia, Tumwater, Tenino and Yelm.

Library officials also are looking for a building to house the Mountain View Library in Randle, which is especially good news after a public outcry thwarted attempts a few years ago to close the East Lewis County branch. Timberland’s other Lewis County libraries are in Centralia, Chehalis, Randle, Packwood, Winlock and Salkum, a former gas station that soon will host electric vehicle charging stations people can use for a fee.

At a meeting last week, the Timberland Regional Library Board approved a three-year contract extending the kiosk it installed at Toledo in 2014 after voters in the city agreed to join the five-county system (although rural Toledo area residents outside the city limits have been paying Timberland Regional Library taxes for decades). Morton and Rochester also house kiosks.

“I’m hoping maybe at some point down the road, we can focus more on that where they can have a permanent location as opposed to having a kiosk,” said Brian Zylstra, one of Lewis County’s two representatives on the board. The other is Hal Blanton of Packwood.

Zylstra acknowledged that many local people are passionate about the community library in Toledo. “They care about it very much and would like to have a ‘real library,’” he said. “But funding is the key issue there. We’re hoping at some point we can look at that a little bit more … That’s a large geographic area.”

He’s right. While Thurston County has more than three times as many people as Lewis County (291,000 to 80,707), its population is packed inside 774 square miles. Lewis County’s small population is scattered over three times as many square miles — 2,436.

After Toledo voters decided to join TRL, Bill and Pat Caldwell graciously offered their former pharmacy building for a library — free gratis — but TRL opted for only a kiosk, citing budget constraints. It was $10,000 for the volunteer-run kiosk while a library would cost more than $100,000 a year. (By the way, in 2014, rural Toledo residents paid more than $161,000 in Timberland taxes, a number boosted to $177,000 after city voters annexed into the library district.)

At last week’s meeting, Director Cheryl Heywood said Toledo and Morton residents were told a vote to annex into Timberland “equals getting a library card; it does not equal getting a library building.”

But the building in Toledo was already donated for a library. Dedicated volunteers devoted time, energy, and talent to convert the former pharmacy building into a lovely Toledo Community Library, which is where Timberland’s kiosk sits.

While discussing the kiosk renewal contract, Pat Caldwell said she again asked Heywood for a full-service library in our growing community, but the director refused, again citing a lack of money.

The Caldwells haven’t yet donated the building to the city because TRL has not committed to running a library there.

“We want to donate it to the city if they will keep a library there, but without TRL taking it over and running it, that would not be possible,” Caldwell said. “I cannot see the city doing the day-to-day running of TCL (Timberland Community Library).”

I appreciated Zylstra acknowledging the ongoing request for a library branch in Toledo. I hope the rest of the board will keep in mind the community’s desire and the Caldwells’ gracious offer of a building to house the library.

Rural residents in Thurston, Grays Harbor, Mason, Pacific, and Lewis Counties voted in November 1968 to form the regional library district. Today, Timberland Regional Library has 27 libraries, two cooperative library centers, and three library kiosks (two of them in Lewis County).

Providence Patient Support Person Allowed

I’m so glad Providence is allowing a family member or caregiver to be with patients at hospitals and clinics. Two weeks ago, after my sister’s left side grew numb at her home and the phone went dead during a call to another sister, paramedics entered her home and drove her to Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia.

When my sister Jackie, who lives in Woodland, called me that Thursday night, I rushed from Toledo to the hospital. Shortly before 11 p.m., I saw Jackie outside the emergency room doors, trying to call for an update.

We sat perched on the concrete planter wall for hours without hearing anything. Was it a stroke? A heart attack? A seizure? We took turns calling the number, asking for an update. Our only consolation was when the receptionist said they had to deal first with critical patients. So, our sister wasn’t critical? We hoped not.

A few times, I’ll admit, I felt like storming the ER doors to demand answers. After all, we were both fully vaccinated against COVID-19. They did let us in once to use the restroom.

Finally, about 1 p.m., after three hours outside the ER, praying and worrying, we received an update. No stroke. No heart attack. A bad seizure. Praise God.

At least now, with one person allowed inside with the patient, the rest of the family can be kept informed about what’s happening and provide comfort, notes and solace to their sick loved one.

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