As I sat in my apartment in Colfax on Monday afternoon and watched flames destroy a house on the hill in front of me, I figured my first day Tuesday as the new director of Whitman County Library would be interesting. When I heard the news later that night that the Babb Road Fire had destroyed the towns of Malden and Pine City, including our much-loved library branch in Malden, I was certain my first day was going to be heartbreakingly memorable.
This week has been a whirlwind of road trips, learning who our community leaders are, determining how best to support relief efforts and relocating library services to our Rosalia branch.
I also learned that Malden branch manager, Vanessa Place, who tragically lost her home in the fire, is truly a superstar. She began posting updates for the community on the Malden library’s Facebook page Monday night, and has already started providing library service through expanded hours at our Rosalia branch to serve displaced Malden residents.
The library is also providing additional computers at our Rosalia branch and expanding computer time limits for anyone who needs to file insurance claims, contact family or friends and more. Computers and our 24/7 public wi-fi are free for anyone to use. Masks are required but available at the library and social distancing and occupancy limits still apply, so it’s recommended to call the library at (509) 523-3109 to schedule an appointment.
Expanded hours at our Rosalia branch are available on the “Locations & Hours” link on our website at whitco.lib.wa.us.
We know that many people want to help however they can. Thanks to great local response and the support of our communities, many organizations are currently overwhelmed with certain items. They ask that people try to slow down donations until they can evaluate what they have or work to fill the currently needed items. These are boys clothes, baby/toddler clothing, baby supplies, personal hygiene items, grade school age school supplies and non-perishable food items.
There is also a need for gift cards, funding, housing, and job opportunities. Various local organizations are collecting donations including the Rosalia Lions Club, Rosalia Community Baptist Church, Colfax Eagles and many others. You can also donate directly to the United Way and the Red Cross.
As you can imagine, finding the best way to assist Malden residents is the library’s top priority. If you would like to donate to help us expand library or technology services to those temporarily sheltering in Rosalia or in our efforts to resume services in Malden such as internet access, outreach programs, or ultimately rebuilding the library, you can send donations to the Friends of the Malden Library at our Colfax branch, 102 S. Main St. We’re not able to accept book donations at this time.
It’s been a wild first few days, but after seeing how well our communities work together and support friends and neighbors through tragedy, I don’t think I could have found a better community to join.
Kylie Fullmer is the new director of Whitman County Library. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.