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March 27, 2023

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Woodland hopes to book new library

Current facility too small, inaccessible for some patrons

By , Columbian Small Cities Reporter
4 Photos
A second-floor young readers area at the Woodland library is inaccessible to some.
A second-floor young readers area at the Woodland library is inaccessible to some. The century-old building lacks an elevator. Photo Gallery

Woodland city leaders are stepping up efforts to replace the community’s small, aging library.

Since the mid-1920s, a 2,376-square-foot white building at 770 Park St. has been home to the Woodland Community Library. The building is even older, built near the turn of the 20th century, and every day librarian Justin Keeler feels its age and limitations.

The library serves hundreds of customers a day, but it could do much more for Woodland’s growing population with a modern building more than four times the size, Keeler said. As it stands, the library has little room for computers and class programs, and the second-floor young readers section is inaccessible to many visitors with disabilities.

“The size of the facility is far outstripped by the size of the community that we’re trying to serve,” he said. “And if we have patrons come in with special needs — especially if they’re kids and teens — they can’t access the part of the library that’s designated for them.”

With that thought in mind, the Woodland City Council unanimously adopted a resolution this month backing community efforts to build a new library. Given its age, remodeling the current building wouldn’t be cost-effective, the council concluded.

The library operates under the umbrella of the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District. The district has targeted libraries in Woodland, Washougal and Ridgefield for replacement in the coming years.

Building Woodland’s new library would cost a little more than $3.8 million, Keeler said. The intent is to pay for most of that with money from private donors.

The library district has committed $500,000 from reserves to help pay for it, he said. Between that and fundraising efforts from the Friends of the Woodland Community Library, the pot for the project has grown to about $800,000, Keeler said.

The city’s greatest concern is providing more space for the long term. Today, Woodland has a population of about 5,500, and based on the city’s urban growth area projections, it’s expected to increase some 250 percent by 2040.

The city owns the old Park Street building, and it could eventually be demolished or stay in the city’s hands for new office space, Mayor Grover Laseke said.

The building may have some historical value, not only as the longtime home of the library but also as a gathering place for a local women’s literary club in the 1920s, Keeler said. It was also used for high school science and home economics classes three decades later.

Nonetheless, moving on from the old building is a step forward for Woodland, Laseke said.

“It’s a good thing for the community,” he said. “The library we have now is a building that isn’t ADA accessible and it really needs to be replaced.”

Instead of building on that site, several other properties with more space are under consideration for the new library. The most likely spot for the new building is near Horseshoe Lake Park off Davidson Avenue, Keeler said. Another favorite site is on Park Street, next to where the library stands today.

Keeler hopes the library district will have a firm decision on a new site by the end of this summer.

Columbian Small Cities Reporter