Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1952 No. 253 - Mar 7 1952
Attorney General Smith Troy


A library board has no authority to lease library property to a commercial firm which would erect a building that only incidentally would house the library.

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                                                                   March 7, 1952

State Library Commission
Temple of Justice
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 253

Attention:  !ttMiss Maryan E. Reynolds, State Librarian

Dear Miss Reynolds:

            Your letter of February 26, 1952, has been received and the matters therein contained carefully perused.  In brief, you have asked:

            Whether a library board may lease library property to a commercial firm which would erect a building that would house the library as well as private businesses.

            We conclude not, as library property should be used for library purposes.


            It is basic that a quasi-municipal corporation has no power beyond that expressly or impliedly conferred by law.  Hughbanks v. Port of Seattle, 193 Wash. 498, 76 P. (2d) 603.  It is also fundamental that the governing body must exercise granted powers in accordance with the purpose for which they were granted.  Chandler v. Seattle, 80 Wash. 154, 141 Pac. 331.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            The powers of a board of library trustees are set out in RCW 27.12.210 (§ 8, chapter 65, Laws of 1941) and include the following:

            "* * *

            "(2) Have the supervision, care, and custody of all property of the library, * * *

            "* * *

            "(7) Lease or purchase land for library buildings;

            "(8) Lease, purchase, or erect an appropriate building for library purposes, and acquire such other property as may be needed therefor;

            "* * *

            "(10) Do all other acts necessary for the orderly and efficient management and control of the library."

            Compounding the above‑cited rules and statutory provisions, and in answer to your question, you are advised that a library board may not lease its property for the erection of a commercial building which will only incidentally house a library.  However, we are not holding that a business firm desiring to build maynever lease library property.  Such a lease would possibly, in a given case, effectuate some public library purpose.  We are merely saying that in the leasing of library property, the board must be primarily promoting or subserving those purposes for which a library is existent.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General