Mall Library Connection
Where: 8700 N.E. Vancouver Mall Drive, second floor, near J.C. Penney.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Previously: The Vancouver Mall Community Library closed on Dec. 24, 2012.
What’s new: The Mall Library Connection is now open after a “soft” launch on Monday.
What’s next: The grand opening is April 6, with a 9:45 a.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Erin Iwata and her boys went home Monday with a book about raising baby chicks, as well as a few other books for the gardening season.
They also played a role in another newly hatched enterprise: The Mall Library Connection.
The Vancouver family was part of the low-profile launch of Clark County's newest library facility, at the Westfield Vancouver mall.
It replaces the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District's former branch library at the mall, which was closed on Dec. 24 for a makeover.
For almost three months, a lot of library district patrons have been waiting for the reopening.
Then on Monday morning, Iwata — whose oldest son attends a nearby preschool — saw that the library doors were unexpectedly open.
Iwata said she had just checked the library district's website to see when story-time sessions would resume at the mall.
"It said the library would open in April," Iwata said. "Then we walked by this morning, and 'Yay!' It was a big surprise."
It was also welcome news for Judy Seaunier, who lives near the mall. Her alternative had been to ride her bicycle to the Cascade Park Community Library.
Library officials called it a "soft opening." The unpublicized launch gave the staff an opportunity to test the checkout system with a few walk-up library users before declaring the facility was open for business.
And things went just fine, said Nancy Tessman, executive director of the library district. The Mall Library Connection is now open seven days a week.
There will be a grand-opening celebration on April 6, with a 9:45 a.m. ribbon-cutting event.
The "library connection" was designed to accommodate a facility with about half the space of the previous mall library. The previous lease expired on Dec. 31. The 2013 lease costs about the same — $72,000, with an automatic 4 percent annual increase — but it only pays for about half the space.
So, the previous 7,215-square-foot space has been condensed into a nearby 3,575-square-foot facility on the mall's second level, adjacent to J.C. Penney.
New features include an automated materials handling system that automatically checks in returns and is available even when the library is closed. There also are nine Internet-access desktop computers, WiFi, and multiple power outlets for patrons with laptops or other devices.
There were a couple of hitches, Tessman said, but they were solved well ahead of Monday's public rollout. For some reason, the materials-handling system — which was made in Europe — was delayed while going through customs. When the materials handler did arrive and was being installed, workers found that it was built to work with a European electrical system.
The mall location was the fifth-busiest of the system's 16 sites in November, with a circulation of 22,254 items. In 2011, the mall library had 328,940 visitors.
The project cost about $750,000; that includes $150,000 from Westfield and money from the 2006 Vancouver Library Capital Facility Area bond measure.