Long-awaited public library for Waikōloa is one step closer to becoming a reality
February 22, 2023, 4:00 AM HST
Fourteen years ago, in the living room of then state Rep. Cindy Evans, residents of Waikōloa made their plea: “Please. We have to bring a library to the community.”
Since then, Evans has been part of the push to get a library in the South Kohala town of nearly 7,400 people on the Big Island.
Today, after years of the community looking at different sites and discussing plans to make that dream become reality, the Hawai’i County Council is expected to approve a measure that will finally open the next chapter in the effort to construct a new public library in Waikōloa.
Evans, now a Council member, along with her fellow Council colleagues, already gave the measure, Resolution 51-23, a unanimous favorable recommendation during a Feb. 7 committee meeting.
The resolution, introduced by Council Vice Chairman Holeka Inaba by request, would authorize Hawai‘i County Finance Director Deanna Sako to negotiate a 65-year lease, at no cost, with the Hawai‘i State Public Library System.
The lease is for the development, construction and operation of a library that would sit on a few more than 2.5 acres within the County’s Kamakoa Nui subdivision in Waikōloa.
Hawai‘i State Librarian Stacey Aldrich said via Zoom during the Feb. 7 meeting that a recent patron survey conducted by the state library system showed that Hawai‘i’s libraries are important community hubs. They are places where people can connect to the internet and with each other, accessing information and ideas.
The nonprofit Friends of the Library-Waikōloa Region, of which Evans is a founding member, has been offering a daily bookmobile behind the tennis courts in Waikōloa as a learning resource center and gathering place. But it’s not a full-service library. It’s a transitional program — operated by volunteers and reliant on donations — until a library can be built.
The nearest state library is about 20 miles away at Thelma Parker Memorial Public and School Library in Waimea. The Kailua-Kona Public Library is about 35 miles away.
“This community really wants this library,” Evans said during the committee meeting.
The state library system is onboard.
“We’re so excited to be able to partner with the County to bring a library to a community that has been wanting a library for more than 10 years,” Aldrich said. “Thank you so much for considering this opportunity to partner with us to bring this important hub to the community. Mahalo.”
Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy said she is happy to lend her support to Resolution 51-23, helping lay the groundwork to bring such an important resource to Waikōloa. Inaba looks forward to seeing the library come to fruition. Evans thanked her colleagues for their support.
“Libraries are the heart of Hawai‘i’s communities, and [the Hawai‘i State Public Library System] has been working with the community, state and county leaders for years to provide a permanent public library in Waikōloa,” said Mallory Fujitani, a special assistant in the Office of the State Librarian, on Tuesday. “Resolution 51-23 paves the way for making the library a reality.”
Today’s Council meeting begins at 9 a.m. People can attend in person at the West Hawai‘i Civic Center in Kona or watch online. Unless items are taken out of order, Resolution 51-23 should be one of the first measures the Council takes up.
Among other business, the Council will:
- Consider first reading of Bill 19, which would repeal an obsolete law that regulates public dance houses and halls.
- Consider first reading of Bill 22, which would create a County animal control and protection agency that would care for and protect impounded animals.
- Take up first reading of Bill 27, relating to the completion of Phase II of the Hilo Bayfront Trails project, including the construction of parking stalls and a connecting walkway for access to the path that runs from Kumu Street to Pauahi Street in Hilo. The measure requires a 2/3 vote of the entire Council to move forward.
- Consider second and final reading of Bill 13, relating to the purchase of essential fire equipment to be used in Pāhoa and other areas in lower Puna.
- Consider second and final reading of Bill 14, which relates to the Kilauea Avenue/Keawe Street rehabilitation project in Downtown Hilo. This measure requires a 2/3 vote of the entire Council to pass.
- Take up second and final reading of Bill 15, relating to public improvements through the Hawai‘i County Mass Transit Agency, including making sure bus stops are compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act and constructing a Kailua-Kona maintenance facility. This measure also requires a 2/3 vote of the entire Council to pass.
To see the full Council agenda, click here.