Wow, it is done: The $3.74 million dollars to build a new library in La Conner has been raised. By the end of 2021 a new library will gleam from 520 Morris Street, anchoring the east end of town for decades to come. This is a very good thing. It is also a momentous accomplishment for a library district with a population of some 4,800 people. We are the little community that could, and we did.
We did it, but it got done by the persistent, quiet leadership of the Library Foundation director, Susan Macek. She created a plan and she followed it to completion, starting even before she shepherded the first $500,000 from the state legislature close to 18 months ago.
Credit her board, led now by Jim Airy and, before him, Richard Wisniewski. Joy Neal, district librarian, and her board of directors were also behind the scenes, providing steady support and leadership.
We did it, but the foundation, literally, came from the Friends of the Library and the Kiwanis Club of La Conner, whose members have been quietly paying the mortgage for the Morris Street property, the site of the library, month after month. They have staffed their thrift store and shown up at fundraiser after fundraiser, making and buying auction baskets and doing many more behind the scenes activities.
Mayor Ramon Hayes started the year committing himself and the town he governs to getting the library funded. He followed through on his words, organizing a delegation to Olympia in February to meet with our legislators and having the Town apply for the $500,000 grant from Skagit County.
Town Administrator Scott Thomas was the behind the scenes staffer, probably with Finance Director Maria DeGoede, developing the grant proposal that gained the County funding.
County Commissioner Ron Wesen came to La Conner a year ago to hear our story and agree to participate in the plan that has played out with approval of the economic development grant.
State legislators Barbara Bailey and Norma Smith early on championed the 2018 $500,000 appropriation from the legislature and were there this year when newly elected Reps. Dave Paul and Debra Lekanoff joined the effort for a second appropriation, this time of $720,000.
The Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, through its Senate, agreed that the library is a good thing for everyone, on both sides of the Channel, and provided the absolutely essential $750,000 to see the funding total get met.
And then there is us, people like you, citizens and residents of the library district, or not, who came to fundraisers, wrote checks, wrote more checks and wrote still more checks. Nothing in our society is more democratic than our public library, as each word of the very phrase defines: Our. Public. Library.
Like the slogan for co-ops says, “We own it.” In La Conner, it is absolutely true: We built it. Now watch it go up.