Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1956 No. 295 -
Attorney General Don Eastvold


Where a city and a county rural library district have joined together to establish and maintain a regional library pursuant to RCW 27.12.080, the city may condemn land for a situs for the library building within the city limits.

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                                                                    July 11, 1956

Honorable Maryan E. Reynolds
State Librarian
Temple of Justice
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 55-57 No. 295

Dear Miss Reynolds:

            You have requested the opinion of this office on the following question:

            "In the case of a Regional Library, who has the authority to bring condemnation proceedings against a property owner?  In our case, when the property in question is located within the city of Wenatchee, does the city bring suit, or does the county?"

            We answer your question as follows:

            Without deciding upon the power of counties to condemn this property, it is our opinion that the city may do so.


            The pertinent statutes provide as follows:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            RCW 27.12.080

            "Two or more governmental units may join in establishing and maintaining a regional library through a joint written agreement of their legislative bodies.  The agreement must provide for the apportionment of the expenses, and that the treasurer of one of the participating units shall have custody of the funds of the library.  The treasurers of the other participating governmental units shall transfer to the one who has been selected as treasurer for the library, all moneys collected for public library purposes in their governmental units.  If the legislative body of any one of the participating governmental units decides to withdraw from a regional library contract, the withdrawing governmental unit shall be entitled to a division of the property on the basis of its contributions."

            RCW 8.12.030

            "Every city in the state may condemn land and property, including state, county, and school lands and property for streets, avenues, alleys, highways, bridges, approaches, culverts, drains, ditches, public squares, public markets, city halls, jails, and other public buildings, . . . and may condemn land and other property and damage it for such and for any other public use after just compensation has been first made or paid into court for the owner in the manner prescribed by this chapter."

            RCW 27.12.020

            "It is the policy of the state as a part of its provisions for public education to promote the establishment and development of public library service throughout its various subdivisions, and to that end every governmental unit may establish and maintain a library, either by itself or in cooperation with one or more other governmental units."

            RCW 8.12.030, set forth above, permits cities to condemn property for "public buildings" and for other public "use."  The case ofJohnson v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, 158 Md. 93, 148 Atl. 209,  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] 66 A.L.R. 1488, held that a free public library was a "public purpose" within the meaning of a charter provision authorizing a city to condemn land for public purposes.  RCW 27.12.020, set forth above, contains a broad statement of public policy indicating that public libraries constitute a public use and purpose.  On the bases of these authorities, we feel that a city may condemn land for the purpose of a public library.

            RCW 27.12.080, set forth above, permits one or more governmental units by contract to share the expense of establishment and maintenance of public libraries.  Where a library is so established or maintained it is called a regional library.

            In our opinion the mere fact that other governmental units have agreed to share expenses with a city in the establishment and maintenance of a library and will derive certain benefits therefrom, does not affect the city's power to condemn property for library purposes.  See 10 McQuillin on Municipal Corporations (3rd Ed.), 104, § 28.43.

            We conclude that where a city and a county rural library district have joined together to establish and maintain a regional library pursuant to RCW 27.12.080, the city may condemn land for a situs for the library building within the city limits.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General