New library wows crowd

Opening of eagerly anticipated downtown building draws about 5,000

By Dave Kern, Columbian assistant metro editor



Vancouver Library Opens

An estimated 5,000 people flowed through the spacious and elegant Vancouver Community Library on Sunday, lavishing praise on the five-story building that will become a destination spot in downtown.

Fun facts

Entertainment was provided by the Hough Youth Escola de Samba percussion group. Actors from the Christian Youth Theater portrayed literary figures during the opening day.

Dignitaries at the ribbon-cutting included former head librarians Ruth Watson and Sharon Hammer. Among the dignitaries were Secretary of State Sam Reed and longtime library board member Merle Koplan.

Additional concrete and rebar mean the library weighs the equivalent of a 30-story condominium.

The building is projected to use 33 percent less energy than required by code.

Approximately 250 workers spent about 160,000 person-hours building the library.

The Columbia Room on the first floor can seat 135 people and features a full Clark-Vancouver TV (CVTV) control room.

The new library is expected to attract a million visitors per year.

The building exterior features terra cotta to mimic the look of the historic Academy across the street.

The fifth-floor reading room honors Vancouver’s sister city relationship with Joyo, Japan, and features display cases holding gifts the city has received from Joyo.

There are 115 parking spaces in a lot and on-street parking around the building. Plans call for an underground garage in the future.

There are 69 computers; the former library had 16.

This library has 83,000 square feet; the former has 36,000.

The capacity of the collection is 385,000. That’s nearly 2 miles of materials. The former library had room for 285,000.

A mechanical book sorter will speed books back to shelves faster, officials say.

Sources: Library officials

Library information:

Address: 901 C Street, at the southeast corner of the intersection of C Street and E. Evergreen Blvd. in downtown Vancouver


9 a.m. – 8 p.m., Monday–Thursday

10 a.m. – 6 p.m., Friday – Sunday

On the

Rain pelted many who waited through 45 minutes of speeches by dignitaries before the doors opened for self-guided tours.

The $38 million structure at Evergreen Boulevard and C Street is sure to impress many, visitors said. It is the main library in the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District that stretches from Woodland to Goldendale.

“It’s for you. You’re going to like it,” Bruce Ziegman told the crowd. He is the executive director of the library district, with its 13 libraries.

Ziegman reminded guests that voters by a 63 percent margin approved a measure to build the new library in 2006.

But he said without a $5 million gift from Steve and Jan Oliva, the building would have been “much more austere.” The Olivas (Hi-School Pharmacy stores) are well-known in the worlds of business and philanthropy. Ziegman also thanked developers George and Lance Killian for donating the land. The Killians plan a mixed-use development on adjacent land in the future.

Early Learning Center

The library offers art on every floor and the Early Learning Center on the third floor for infants through 5-year-olds is akin to a children’s museum.

New mom Alyssa Siers, 25, of Vancouver was taking in the fantastic colors and shapes of the center with daughter Ruby, nearly 5 months old.

“I wanted her to be here on the first day. I plan on bringing her here as she grows up … and getting lots of use out of it.

“It’s beautiful,’ Siers said of the library. “I’m really excited this is in our community and you don’t have to drive a long distance. She (Ruby) will appreciate it more. Right now, she just wants to chew the books.”

“It’s amazing,” said Darcy Davis of Salmon Creek, marveling at the Early Learning Center. “The bright colors, the letters and the books.”

She was there with husband Jerry and daughter Claire, 2.

“I can see we’re going to be spending a lot of time here,” Jerry Davis said. “I can see her library card is going to be used extensively.”

The center has four areas: the River Zone, Land of Imagination, Light Tower Zone and Community Resource Center. It was designed and built by the Burgeon Group. The firm has built more than 100 early learning projects for public libraries, said owner Kim van der Veen. The touches are there to delight children but also will amaze adults. The river display matches the Columbia River. The Ice Cave has coins superimposed in the shape of the world. Its cones are made of polyester casting resin and include the lime-tinted Garden Cafe, perfect for a make-believe tea party.

“It’s all linked to getting kids ready for school, and it’s all educational,” van der Veen said.

Happily ‘overwhelmed’

Nelly Sanchez Williams, 71, of Vancouver might have spoken for many when she said, “I’m overwhelmed.”

“I’m one of the best customers. I just love it,” she said of the library as she decided on a book to check out. She added she has visited the main Los Angeles library and Vancouver’s is more to her liking.

The floors

On the main floor, you’ll find the Friends of the Library Booknook, where you can buy used books, a coffee shop will open within weeks, the artwork Wall of Knowledge, Teen Central and the Columbia Room, one of three community rooms the public can rent.

The second floor is for administration.

The third floor is geared for children.

The fourth floor includes nonfiction and world language materials.

The fifth floor offers fiction, large-print books, biographies and the 4,000-square-foot outdoor terrace and its views.

Vancouver Community Librarian Karin Ford said visitors Sunday seemed to be “loving the building.”

The architects

”It’s so rewarding to see people in it after four years of hard work,” said lead architect Adin Dunning of Miller Hull Partnership of Seattle. He was enjoying the view on the terrace with his wife, Joy, and daughters, Alice, 6, and Grace, 8. Dunning grew up in Vancouver and Camas. He worked with a 10-architect team and took advice from library workers.

“The library has a great staff who were really engaged about doing something special for Vancouver,” Dunning said. The Vancouver Community Library has 86 employees.

Not far away on the terrace, Don Cassady offered this: “I think the architects did a whale of a job.” He’s in a good position to judge because Cassady was the architect for the library opened in 1963 at Fort Vancouver Way and Mill Plain Boulevard. In a letter to the friends group, he wrote of the new library, “The building appears in my opinion to be a well-thought-out architectural gem, aesthetically and functionally.”

Cassady retired in 1992. The former library remains as an administration office of the library district.

Internet generation speaks

“I love the design of the building,” said 19-year-old Depree Johnson, a Clark College student. He was relaxing with a graphic novel in a fifth-floor chair. “It’s got a very laid-back atmosphere.”

Its beauty will transcend time,” offered Jenna Powers, 23 of Salmon Creek.

The art

Artist Jennifer Williams of Ridgefield was near her “River of Knowledge” mixed media piece on the fifth floor. It is dedicated to former Vancouver city attorney and longtime library board member Jerry King. “It’s designed specifically for this space,” Williams said. “I think of it as a tributary to the Columbia.”

The layered painting started out as a Vancouver city street map. Along the way, writings by King and poet Walt Whitman were integrated. There are recycled grocery sacks in there and even sandpaper. Asked the number of layers in the large piece, Williams said, “I don’t know. I lose track.”