Washougal moves closer to new library

Regional library system approves discussions with downtown developer

By Tom Vogt, Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter

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Washougal is moving a step closer to a new library, with Amelia Shelley, executive director of the regional library system, getting approval to discuss an agreement with a downtown developer.

And that means that the library is getting closer to stocking more than one copy of a book.

At Monday’s board meeting, the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District’s trustees said Shelley can start working toward a formal letter of intent with Wes Hickey. The opportunity is part of a mixed-use project being developed by Hickey’s Lone Wolf Investments.

Shelley can now work on the details of an agreement, which would involve 10,000 to 12,000 square feet of space on the first floor of the project. If they can negotiate an agreement, Shelley would bring the letter of intent to the board for a vote.

“We’re very excited about the idea of a mixed-use development and working with Wes Hickey,” Jane Higgins, board chairwoman, said. “He has been very good about listening to our wishes and being willing to work with us.

“There won’t be a lot of details until the actual contract is negotiated, but we’re very excited for the community of Washougal,” she said.

The current Washougal Community Library, 1661 C St., is 2,400 square feet. With at least four times the square footage, the proposed library could expand the collection, which now is about 13,500 volumes.

“We can’t have more than one copy of the same title,” librarian Rachael Ries said. With people reserving new publications, “Titles don’t always make it to the shelves.”

(An exception is the Lucky Day shelf, which gets three copies of hot titles.)

A new library would provide more internet and computer access, designated spots for children and teens, and a meeting room.

“We have three public computers. We need more,” Ries said. “We’re currently rolling bookcases out of the way so children have room for story time.

“There is a huge need for a public space where people can come together and meet. We’re asked regularly and want to provide that.”

The proposed development is on the block between Main, Durgan and C streets and Pendleton Way in downtown Washougal.

Washougal is the second of three cities to identify a possible library site. Property in Woodland was acquired in May at 828 Goerig St., where the Woodland Funeral Home is located.

The efforts follow a district facilities report released in 2014 that recommended new libraries in Ridgefield, Washougal and Woodland. Advocates for a new Ridgefield library are still looking for a spot.

In that report, the cost of a new Washougal library was estimated at about $4.5 million. The district has $1 million available for the project.

The Friends of the Library in Washougal “have been actively fundraising since the report came out,” Higgins said. “We’ll be searching for larger donors to close the gap.”

The district also has put bonds on the ballots in local communities that funded the Three Creeks, Vancouver, Vancouver Mall and Cascade Park community libraries.