Citing frustrations over decisions from the five-county library organization, Chehalis resident Brian Zylstra resigned from his position representing Lewis County on the Timberland Regional Library (TRL) Board of Trustees and attended his final meeting on Wednesday night.
Zylstra was a member of the nonprofit “Friends of the Chehalis Library” group when he was initially appointed to the board of trustees. At the administration’s request, he said, the board passed a policy last month requiring its members to choose between board positions and involvement with “friends” of library groups. Zylstra chose his role with the latter.
“I have been a member of the Friends of the Chehalis Library since about 2010, so I am affected by this measure's approval,” Zylstra wrote in his resignation letter to the Lewis County commissioners, who re-appointed him to the position a few months prior. “After much thought, I have … chosen to resign from the TRL Board of Trustees.”
The board came under scrutiny in recent years after a proposal was made to close the Randle library and silence staff who tried to warn the public, according to previous reporting by The Chronicle. With Randle’s remote, rural location serving a small population, the attempt was seen as a snub by locals. In the last year, Morton voters opted overwhelmingly to leave the TRL district, with proponents of the proposition citing taxes paid to an entity that promised a library that never came.
According to reporting by The Olympian from Wednesday’s meeting, a similar issue is underway in Grays Harbor County. The board has talked of closing the Amanda Park Library, serving a community on the Olympic Peninsula which had a population of 84 during the 2020 Census. According to The Olympian, TRL Executive Director Cheryl Heywood said the site had cost the organization “millions” despite a steep drop in usage.
Zylstra spoke out against closing the location during the meeting, and likewise shared frustrations over TRL’s priorities in a followup message to The Chronicle.
Libraries shifting to iPad availability, Zylstra said, have meant a lack of access to print periodicals like magazines and newspapers for seniors.
“Timberland talks about the importance of equity, diversity and inclusion. Well, some would argue that the shift from print to digital is not being inclusive for some seniors and others who have a hard time with iPads and prefer a printed magazine or newspaper. Timberland needs to reconsider their needs,” Zylstra wrote. “While I appreciate how having the iPads allows TRL to provide a greater number of periodicals at a discount, I’m unhappy that TRL seems to be putting staff’s needs above patrons’ needs. Several patrons complained to me in recent months about the shift from print to digital periodicals. It’s too bad their concerns are being ignored.”
Now, the Lewis County Board of Commissioners will need to find a replacement for Zylstra.
The board, according to a county news release, serves 550,000 residents in the five partnering counties of Lewis, Mason, Thurston, Grays Harbor and Pacific. Lewis County’s vacancy is for an unexpired seven-year term that runs through December 2029.
The board meets at 5:30 p.m. on the fourth Wednesday of each month (or the fifth Wednesday if the meeting date interferes with holidays or conferences).
Meetings are held at the Administrative Service Center at 415 Tumwater Blvd. SW in Tumwater, at one of TRL’s 29 libraries or remotely via Zoom.
Those interested should submit an application and a letter of interest to Lewis County Board of Commissioners Clerk Rieva Lester, by 3 p.m. Thursday, June 1 by mail at 351 NW North St., Chehalis, WA 98532, email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or in person at the county courthouse.
“It has been a great honor and privilege to serve the people of Lewis County and the people living in Timberland's five-county district these past seven years,” Zylstra wrote in his resignation letter. “Once I resign, I hope you will be able to soon fill my position. I ask that you appoint someone who will have the best interests of Lewis County and the TRL district overall in mind.”
For the application packet, visit the “BOCC News” section on the bottom right-hand side of the commissioners’ web page at https://lewiscountywa.gov/offices/commissioners/.
To learn more about the TRL, visit https://www.trl.org/.