Vancouver mall library to shrink in 2013

Slightly less than half the space will cost about the same as current lease

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

Published:

 

Update

■ Previously: The Vancouver mall library opened in 1983.

■ What’s new: Library trustees announced a smaller mall branch in 2013.

■ What’s next: Officials will plan services, schedule and staffing for the branch.

photoShoppers pass the Vancouver Mall Community Library on Tuesday. Space for the branch will be reduced by about half in 2013, probably with cuts in staff, hours and services.

(/The Columbian)

Buy this photo

The Vancouver Mall Community Library will be looking at a smaller facility and reduced services in 2013.

The Fort Vancouver Regional Library District Board of Trustees announced at Monday night’s meeting that it has tentatively agreed on a new 10-year lease with Westfield mall management for a library about half the size of the current branch at about the same cost.

“We were excited we could work out an agreement and stay at the mall,” said Patty Duitman, the district’s interim executive director. “It’s a well-loved library.”

The current lease for the 7,215 square-foot Vancouver Mall Community Library space expires Dec. 31. The new lease will be for about 3,575 square feet, part of the current space on the upper level, but with an entry closer to JC Penney.

The cost of the 2013 lease is about the same as the current

one, $72,000, with an automatic 4 percent annual increase. The library district couldn’t afford to renew the lease on the current space at the higher rates, officials said.

They tentatively plan to close the current library space on Monday, Dec. 24. Rebuilding and outfitting the new space will take two or three months. The district hasn’t set a re-opening date.

Westfield mall management will contribute $150,000 for the remodeling.

“We don’t know how much our cost will be until we figure out what we will do,” Duitman said.

With space reduced by about half, “We know that we won’t be able to offer the same array of library services,” said Duitman. “We’ll need to carefully consider what services patrons need most from the available space, and do those well.”

Downsizing also could affect hours and staffing. The new contract commits the district to at least 40 hours of library service; the Vancouver Mall Community Library currently is open 73 hours a week. The branch might operate more than 40 hours a week, “but we have that flexibility if we need it because of budget restraints,” Duitman said.

“The most unfortunate aspect of the reduction is the impact on the mall library’s 15 employees,” she said.

The district will have to finish plans for the new branch before determining staffing needs.

The Vancouver Mall Community Library generates an uncommon amount of walk-in traffic. While it ranked fifth in the system for checking out materials (311,684 items) in 2010, it ranked No. 2 in visits with 324,885; it trailed only the downtown Vancouver Community Library (436,749 visits) in 2010.

The mall branch is a high Internet-use library, Duitman added.

“There is rarely a vacant Internet terminal,” she said, and that’s one thing that might be addressed in the new layout.

People can comment or ask questions about the Vancouver Mall library changes at contact@fvrl.org or 360-906-5106.

Comment forms are available at all 13 community libraries, bookmobiles and the district headquarters (the former main library building) at 1007 E. Mill Plain Blvd.

Tom Vogt: 360-735-4558; http://twitter.com/col_history; tom.vogt@columbian.com.