After more than six decades, Union Gap will lose its library Dec. 14 as officials prepare to demolish the mold-infested City Hall building where it is currently housed, officials announced Monday.
The library will not be relocated any time soon because, according to the Yakima Valley Libraries, the city has chosen not to continue its long-standing contract with the library system.
The city, however, has agreed to pay about $20,000 in fees that will maintain access to library services for residents with library cards for at least the next year, city administrator Chris Jensen said. That allows the 385 Union Gap residents with library cards to continue using other Yakima Valley libraries without paying a nonresident user fee.
Jensen said the move will actually save the city $100,000 or more in costs per year associated with maintaining the facility and paying for janitorial staff. The city will look to include space for a new library as it works toward finalizing plans for a new City Hall building, but Jensen said it may not be built until five or seven years.
“We would look to include the library in that design and bring it back,” Jensen said.
The decision ends a contract the city had with Yakima Valley Libraries since 1947. Following the closure, library staff will begin the removal of library materials and furniture from the facility.
“This is a sad occasion for our customers and our staff,” said Kim Hixson, director of Yakima Valley Libraries, said in an email. “The library has been a fixture in Union Gap for over 60 years. But circumstances have forced the city to move ahead with the demolition.”
In a telephone interview, Hixson said the three library employees would be assigned to work in other libraries in the Yakima Valley Libraries district. The books, computers and furniture from the library would also likely go to other facilities, she said.
City offices in the building had been closed since late April after a black mold infestation in much of the building was determined to be a health risk for employees. The library stayed open because officials said the black mold had not spread to that section of the building, which had a different roofing system from the rest of the building where the mold first started.
Hixson said the library had 33,441 visits in 2011. She said the nearest facilities Union Gap residents can go to are in downtown Yakima, West Valley, Toppenish and Wapato.
The library has one of the lower circulation rates in the district with about 31,000 items checked out last year. The West Valley and downtown Yakima libraries each had more than 200,000 items checked out last year.
The Union Gap Library will have new hours beginning Dec. 1. It will be open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. After Dec. 14, employees will begin moving library materials and furniture from the facility.
“Our commitment is to make this transition as seamless as possible for the residents of Union Gap,” says Hixson. “We will work with the affected library customers to insure that they have access to other facilities of their choice within the Yakima Valley Libraries system. We look forward to a continuing relationship with the city and will work with them to meet our mutual goal of serving the citizens of Union Gap.”
• Mike Faulk can be reached at 509-577-7675 or email@example.com.