OLYMPIA — A bill to protect libraries cleared the Senate with unanimous support Wednesday. 

In 2023, petitioners in Columbia County gathered enough signatures to put a measure on the ballot to dissolve the Dayton library. However, this was stopped by a Columbia County court.  

According to reporting from the Seattle Times, roughly two-thirds of the 2,800 registered voters live in Dayton city limits. But since the library is structured as a rural library district, state law says only the approximately 1,000 voters who live outside the incorporated city can vote on what happens to the library, despite Dayton residents paying taxes to fund it. 

Senate Bill 5824, sponsored by Sen. Sam Hunt, would require petitioners to collect signatures from 25% of eligible voters in the district, rather than just 100 taxpayers. The bill would also allow all qualified voters of a library district to have a say in what happens to their library.  

“The Dayton library was on the verge of becoming the first library in the country to shut down because of a dispute over the books inside,” Hunt said. “All of those who could be affected by the closure should have a say in what happens to their shared resource.” 

The bill now heads to the House for consideration.