A Win in the Fight Against Book Banners and Library Closures in Columbia County, WA

The following message is from Elise Severe, Chair of Neighbors United for Progress, who fought against a library closure campaign and won with support from EveryLibrary!

Democracy won and Justice prevailed!

In the far southeast corner of Washington state, the county’s only public library was under attack. A small group of extremists tried and failed to ban 11 books whose themes were LGBTQ, anti-racism, and sexuality.


Angered that their demands were not met, this group's next move was to put forth a petition to dissolve the rural library district.


Click to share this article on Facebook and Twitter


Unfortunately, the Washington State RCW’s to dissolve a library district in this county required only 10% of the unincorporated registered voters to sign. That 10% came to just over 100 signatures to validate the petition and get it onto the November voting ballot. In simple terms this meant that even though city dwellers and county dwellers both paid taxes towards the library district, RCW laws allowed only county registered voters to sign the petition and to vote on the potential ballot measure.

What made our story further unique is that our library could potentially be the first in the NATION to be dissolved by the voters. You can imagine the ripple effect this would have.

The Nation magazine caught wind of this culture war and wrote a feature story on the small town of Dayton, WA which was published at the end of July 2023 “The Small-Town Library That Became a Culture War Battleground”.

The team at EveryLibrary read about our story and immediately reached out to our PAC Neighbors United for Progress.

Instead of floundering wondering how to get organized and successfully protect our only library, the EveryLibrary Political Director helped us immensely. With his expertise, and advice, we were able to get our feet on the ground ready to fight for our library. Campaign messaging is key, getting your community and voters engaged is vital. Having EveryLibrary in our corner allowed us as a PAC to do great work in preserving our public library.


Help us support more communities like this with a $5 monthly donation today!


As a political action committee, we are legally able to use funds for or against ballot measures and so it made perfect sense to retain an attorney with the goal to stop this petition to dissolve the library district. Over the next 8 weeks we worked tirelessly with our attorney and on September 20th just after 4:00PM the verdict was in! WE HAD WON! The petition would not go on the ballot ruling the vote unconstitutional disenfranchising the registered City voters and eliminating a vital public resource. 

In fact, the book banners actions were so egregious that the judge stated that what the petitioners to defund the library did may have constituted voter fraud and that charges could be pursued. 

This saga started in the summer of 2022 and for the moment our library is safe and open to all. As a society we have got to stand up and fight for what is right. We do not have the luxury to sit back and let things work themselves out.

Go to your library and open an account, attend library board meetings, write letters to the local papers explaining what a library means to you, encourage your local representatives to be engaged and protect libraries and the freedom to read. Together we can accomplish much!

Elise Severe, Chair of Neighbors United for Progress