Mid-Columbia Libraries: Investing in communities one book at a time

Kyle Cox, executive director & CEOMarch 30, 2014 

Kaitlin Teague, customer service specialist, reads to children during storytime at the West Pasco branch of the Mid-Columbia Libraries.

COURTESY MID-COLUMBIA LIBRARIES

Sixty-five years ago, Mid-Columbia Libraries began with a single bookmobile delivering books to the rural areas of Benton and Franklin counties. In these farming communities, the library system provided one of the few but prized opportunities for residents to discover and explore our vast world. This bookmobile grew to include a branch library, and throughout the decades, it expanded to the 12-branch system residents enjoy and value.

Our 12 branches and bookmobile serve more than 130,000 cardholders and their families each year. Our branches include Basin City, Benton City, Connell, Kahlotus, Keewaydin Park, Kennewick, Merrill's Corner (Eltopia), Othello, Pasco, Prosser, West Pasco and West Richland.

In 2013, we opened our West Pasco branch, our first new branch since 2006. Located off Road 68 in Pasco, the library features Eastern Washington's first full-service library drive-thru for convenient pick-up and returns. The design of the new branch, including the work of local artists and businesses, ignites the imagination and creates excitement for reading. It also represents a new model for library services -- a smaller library with flexible space, featuring popular, high-demand titles located in highly traveled areas. In less than a year, West Pasco has become the second busiest branch in the system.

This January, MCL celebrated the re-opening of the Pasco branch after a monthlong remodel. Located in downtown Pasco, the library received more than $140,000 in facility and furniture updates, as well as a major influx of new books. Unique and custom art was created and installed by local artists to give this space a warm and inviting feel. This remodel, combined with the new West Pasco branch, represented a more than $600,000 investment in Pasco's libraries by the library system.

The successes of these remodels launched our multi-year master facilities plan. Thanks to sound fiscal management and prudent leadership by your Library Board of Trustees, we are able to reinvest in each of your communities through the remodel and rejuvenation of every branch library. We are also continually exploring new opportunities to serve you, including the potential to open a branch in the rapidly expanding West Kennewick area.

Last year, our communities checked out more than 2.15 million items from MCL branches, yet again breaking our previously held record. This growing demand is a result of our staff's dedication in selecting quality titles that are more popular, more contemporary and more relevant for your busy lives. Additionally, our staff is proactively going outside of library walls to find groups who could benefit from custom-selected titles to supplement and support their efforts and interests. We've seen this success in providing curriculum support for daycare providers, preschools and schools.

Just as we designed our West Pasco branch with your convenience in mind, we've made our digital collection even easier to use. With more than 40,000 eBooks and downloadable audiobooks available through MCL, you can download these titles directly to your smartphones and tablets. Best of all, you don't have to return these items, you never have late fees, and we let you know the instant your next eBook is available.

For those without the time to read or listen to an entire book, you can instantly access full-text, full color e-versions of more than 100 of your favorite magazines on your handheld devices, including US Weekly, Newsweek, Esquire, Cosmopolitan and National Geographic. The next time you're stuck in a waiting room, access our wildly popular eMagazine collection. These are just a few of the ways your library is making it easier for you to get the content you want when you want it.

Mid-Columbia Libraries is proud to be our region's public library. We continually strive to improve your lives by providing free access to high-quality, high-demand titles in physical and digital formats. We look forward to remodeling and rejuvenating your communities' libraries. We are excited by the future and the potential it holds to better serve you.

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