Library Express fills need, old jail cells in Yacolt

Building that once housed town hall, jail popular replacement for lost bookmobile service

By Jessica Prokop, Columbian Courts Reporter



If You Go

 What: Creature Feature Reptile Zoo, an interactive and educational reptile program for all ages.

• When: 11 a.m. July 21.

• Where: Yacolt Town Park, 409 W. Jones St.

• Contact: Battle Ground Community Library, 360-906-4740.

• What: BJ the Clown will perform a mix of physical comedy, magic, juggling, music, storytelling and puppetry.

• When: 11 a.m. to noon Aug. 11.

• Where: Yacolt Library Express, 105 E. Yacolt Road.

• Contact: Battle Ground Community Library, 360-906-4740.

YACOLT — Crouched down among the shelves of the Yacolt Library Express, Jahara Craber and her two children perused the pages of their latest finds.

Lately, 4-year-old Alleyah Sansburn and 18-month-old Liam Sansburn have been interested in the “Llama Llama” book series by Anna Dewdney, said Craber, 23.

“We read every night as a family,” she said. It’s not uncommon for them to devour three books a night.

“We go through a lot of books. That’s why we’re here so much,” Craber said. They usually check out eight to 10 books in one trip. “It depends on what they have,” she added.

The family began its thrice-weekly visits to the library about six months ago. Before that, Craber, who’s lived in Yacolt for years, had no idea the library existed, she said. She happened to drive by one day and saw the sign on the old, red brick building.

For decades, Yacolt residents only had access to books through a bookmobile service once a week. The nearest library was in Battle Ground, about 15 miles away. But when Yacolt and other outlying Clark County communities lost the bookmobile service, library administrators came up with the more permanent fixture.

In October 2012, Fort Vancouver Regional Library District converted a century-old building into the library facility — the 400-square-foot space that previously housed the former jail and Yacolt Town Hall.

Last year, the library saw more than 33,000 visitors and loaned nearly 45,000 items, according to statistics listed on its Web page. These statistics are in line with previous years, said Janet Alder, marketing and outreach coordinator for the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District.

When the bookmobile operated, it parked at Yacolt Primary School and mostly served school children and the occasional adult, Alder said.

“That would indicate that we are serving a whole lot more adults and people in general with the location we are at than the bookmobile,” she said.

Staffing is limited, but cardholders can access the library 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays by way of a card-scanner entry system that operates on a timer and unlocks the front door. The library largely runs on a self-serve model, Senior Library Assistant Julie Erickson said, and is the only area branch that allows users to check in books on their own.

“It took off way more than anybody expected it to. It’s probably one of the best additions Yacolt has had,” Town Clerk Treasurer Cindy Marbut said. “It’s really a great asset.”

There was a real need for a fixed library, she said, and it is a great complement to any reading programs at the school.

“Obviously, you have the people who are used to reading all of the time and like books, and then you have kids who are just learning to read,” Marbut said.

Patrons can choose from approximately 2,500 items at the Yacolt location — mainly books and DVDs, with some audio options — and have access to online library materials and databases, and a phone line to an on-duty librarian at the Vancouver branch. The library is also the only spot in town with free Wi-Fi, Erickson said.

Librarians periodically pull low-interest books and swap them out for something else, Erickson said. There are also “Lucky Day” books, a treasure trove of sorts, that features best-sellers and new releases. Lucky Day books allow cardholders to bypass wait lists — if there’s one for that particular book — and can be checked out on a first-come, first-served basis.

If library users can’t find what they’re looking for at the Yacolt location, they can pick up items there that they’ve reserved from a different branch.

“It has really expanded its collection. You can search books online and have them sent here,” Craber said.

A laptop lab to access the internet and Microsoft Office software is staffed for two hours Tuesday mornings and Thursday afternoons.

“This is the best thing that’s ever happened to Yacolt,” Janette Figone, 60, said of the library as she surveyed the shelves of books. She frequents the library twice a week.

“It’s pretty neat here. It’s great for people who can’t always get to town,” Figone said.

Because of the building’s history, the library attracts many tourists, Marbut said, especially those who ride the train, because it’s next to the train depot.

One of the more endearing quirks of the little library is a wing of three 6-by-8-foot jail cells. The middle cell houses the Friends of the Yacolt Library Express’ bookstore.

“I don’t know if there are any other Friends bookstores in a jail cell,” Erickson said.

The used bookstore runs on an honor system — there’s a collection box on the wall, where patrons can drop money for their books. The proceeds go toward the library’s summer reading programs, such as the Creature Feature Reptile Zoo in July, an interactive reptile program for all ages.

Yacolt’s Steve Unruh, 65, often walks to the library, he said, and is a member of the Friends group. He most enjoys the camaraderie at the Yacolt location. “People here are so friendly and helpful,” he said.

“We don’t represent the normal culture up here in our corner of the county,” Unruh said, primarily because they live in a rural area. If there’s bad weather, the power can be out for days, but “I can always read my book, and of course, the joke is, by candlelight,” he said.