Yacolt marks spot for books

Former town hall will house 'express' library to replace bookmobile

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

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Yacolt and library officials are completing an agreement giving the north county town the first "express" facility in the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District.

The limited-service Yacolt Library Express will open in September in the former town hall building, 105 E. Yacolt Road. The brick building also has been a firehouse and a jail during a century of public service.

The Yacolt Town Council has approved improvements needed to convert space into a library facility and to provide Internet connectivity. Yacolt will spend $6,000 to $7,000 to remodel the interior and do some exterior work, Mayor Jeff Carothers said Tuesday afternoon.

The library district will provide a circulating collection of about 2,000 items including books, DVDs and CDs; furnishings; equipment; telephone connection to the main library in Vancouver; utility payments; insurance; and part-time staffing. During staffed hours, four laptop computers will be available.

The 400 square feet of new library space will replace the weekly Clark County bookmobile visits that will end on June 28. The bookmobile stops at Yacolt Primary School every Thursday from 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Although it will be staffed four hours a week — tentatively, 10 a.m. to noon on Tuesdays and 1-3 p.m. on Thursdays — the express facility will primarily be self-service. The schedule hasn't been determined, but users will be able to enter during non-staffed hours by scanning a Fort Vancouver library card at the outer door.

Those self-service users will be able to check out items, return books, pick up items they placed on hold, access the library's research databases and other online resources, and talk directly to staff members at the main Vancouver library when it is open.

The proposed floor plan includes several security cameras.

The district's start-up cost is about $75,000, not including extensive staff time. Ongoing costs for staff, utilities, travel and insurance will be about $54,000 a year.

Yacolt is one of seven communities where the Clark County bookmobile makes regularly scheduled stops. The bookmobile service in Clark and Skamania counties will end in about a month.

The library district has been working for about a year on new and more effective approaches to serving rural customers after retiring its aging bookmobile fleet.

The Library Express concept is based on a successful limited-service model introduced in the Seattle area in November 2009. The King County Library System established a partnership with the Redmond Ridge residential community, turning about 300 square feet inside a management office into a library express. The book collection is limited to a selection of popular paperback books, but it circulates more than 5,000 items a month.

Yacolt residents and officials have been discussing using part of the building as a museum; the agreement with the library won't undercut those plans, Carothers said.

"We will still use the part where they have jail cells as a museum, Carothers said.

Yacolt Town Hall is at 202 W. Cushman St.

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