For all who care about state history, the Legislature’s decision to build a new combined Library-Archives Building is outstanding news.
As we editorialized in January near the start of the 2019 legislative session, for such a wealthy and history-packed state, our physical archives and library are close to scandalously under-supported. Thanks to an effort led by Secretary of State Kim Wyman and started by her predecessors Sam Reed and Ralph Munro, the irreplaceable records of Washington state’s history are on the way to being safely preserved and protected.
Passing along recollections is an essential human trait and responsibility. We neglect this task at our peril. To disrespect memory is to disrespect our parents and grandparents. It is to squander hard-won lessons and risk repeating avoidable mistakes. On a less serious note, history is fun. Our state and the territory that came before overflow with amazing and colorful stories of adventure and perseverance. Keeping those memories fresh and alive will ensure that Washington retains vital links to our frontier beginnings.
When completed, a newly authorized $108 million building in Olympia’s South Campus area will house Office of Secretary of State divisions that currently occupy a number of rented facilities in and around Olympia, and provide protected storage and public access to invaluable State Library collections and State Archives records.
In addition, the Legislature appropriated $12.8 million in capital funding for rural public libraries, a new prison library in Walla Walla, and school library resources. It remains to be seen, but this could be super news for the South Bend branch of the Timberland Library System, which was threatened with outright closure last year due to deferred maintenance.
There are ways in which the Washington Legislature perhaps stepped beyond the comfort level of many of the state’s rural residents. But good libraries and preserving history are priorities we all can support.