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3 small cities strive to book new libraries

Ridgefield, Woodland and Washougal in need

By , Columbian Business Reporter
5 Photos
Luke Jarman, 1, left, and his mom, Amy, join Robert Sivewright in cramped quarters the morning of Nov. 19 at the Ridgefield Community Library. Fundraising is well underway for bigger and better libraries in the growing towns of Ridgefield, Washougal and Woodland.
Luke Jarman, 1, left, and his mom, Amy, join Robert Sivewright in cramped quarters the morning of Nov. 19 at the Ridgefield Community Library. Fundraising is well underway for bigger and better libraries in the growing towns of Ridgefield, Washougal and Woodland. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

If only Oprah were here.

“And you get a library, and you get a library, and you get a library!”

But alas, three small Clark County libraries will have to do it the hard way.

Ridgefield, Woodland and Washougal are in the hunt for new libraries to feed the minds of their growing cities, and they are all edging slowly toward their targets.

“Right now, if you go into any of those three communities it’s a very tight space, and once we find a space that fits the needs of the community, it opens up opportunities for everyone,” said Rick Smithrud, executive director of the Fort Vancouver Regional Library Foundation.

The need is obvious — the community libraries run by the library district range between 2,000 to 2,400 square feet, leaving little space for activities, technology, meeting rooms or even offices.

You Can Help

Community money is needed for new community libraries in Ridgefield, Washougal and Woodland.

• Ridgefield: Call the library at 360-906-4770 or visit

• Washougal: Call the library at 360-906-4860 or visit

• Woodland: Call the library at 360-906-4830 or visit

“We know all three are in dire need of a new facility,” said the district’s executive director, Amelia Shelley.

Leading the chase to make that possible are three Friends of the Library groups hoping for a community library to call their own.

“You’re talking about a group of unpaid volunteers who are dedicating their time and energy to raise money for a new library, and I don’t think there’s anything you can contribute more valuable than time,” Smithrud said.

And it’s going to take plenty of time to get the new libraries, identified as priorities by the library district’s 2013 facilities plan. That document proposed three 10,000-square-foot libraries, each costing about $3.75 million.

The district is kicking in $750,000 for each library, with much of the rest left to private donations, grants, philanthropy and possibly bonds.

“The best possible scenario is you raise enough money so you don’t have to go out for a bond,” which would be limited to the library’s service area, Smithrud said.

That puts a pretty heavy burden on local fundraisers, who don’t yet have any schematics or concrete details to share with supporters.

“We could’ve started getting more money quicker if we knew where it was going to be,” said Noel Johnson with the Friends of the Woodland Library.

All three cities have potential sites lined up, but a search for the perfect place shouldn’t be rushed, Shelley said, adding that a partnership with the cities to build on public or donated land would help keep costs down.

“We’re starting to look into some assessment to make sure it’s going to work, to vet the sites,” said Shelley, who in her previous job built six libraries in five years in Garfield County, Colo.

Once locations are chosen and fundraising really picks up, the big money could come in through foundation grants.

“The usual rule is you have to raise 75 percent. They like to be the last dollars in,” Smithrud said. “They’re looking at, ‘What have these communities done to show they are committed to supporting a library?’ ”


Kathy Winter wanted to raise $80,000 for a new library by her 80th birthday in January — but it looks like the cake is coming early.

Just last week the Friends of the Ridgefield Library announced it had passed the goal a few months ahead of schedule.

“I’m telling people now this is really going to be a community library because the community really is paying for it,” Ridgefield librarian Sean McGill said.

Other groups have kicked in support through fundraisers and events and more still have approached the library and the Friends.

McGill said the city council is mulling nine potential sites right now, with no clear date on when one could be chosen. But when one is selected, it could be just a few years’ more work.

“We can’t do this alone, and we don’t operate in a vacuum,” McGill said.


The need for a new library in Woodland might be the most obvious — the existing facility was built in 1909.

“There’s a really strong need. The library we have now has rickety stairs; the librarian’s office is in the closet,” said Johnson with Friends of the Library.

The group has raised about $350,000 toward a new library, and community support is strong, he said, with many residents hoping for better accessibility and a community room to host meetings.

An ideal location would be near the proposed pool along Horseshoe Lake, Johnson said.

“It would really be great then, at one area, to go to the pool to swim, go fishing in the lake, go to the library and read, go to the skateboard park — that corner there would be the highlight of the entire city,” Johnson said. “I imagine it will be several years yet before it’s all done, but we’re never going to give up.”


Fundraising has been a little slower in Washougal, despite an outpouring of support from residents and businesses, so a fundraising committee was recently set up by the Friends of the Library.

They’ve had success with events at Burgerville and Amnesia Brewing recently, but like Ridgefield and Woodland, a location would be a big help.

“Consensus was Washougal wanted one in the downtown area, so we’re looking for property,” said FVRL board member Heena Dwivedy.

She said that would be the “first brick,” and from there the rest could be added more quickly.

“I’d like to see the library as a center for our community to come together,” Dwivedy said.

Efforts throughout the county may seem to be well short of the $3.75 million goals, but FVRL director Shelley said it all comes down to finding a home for the libraries.

“I think in our minds right now we hope to see some movement in the coming year in all three communities,” she said. “It can be a year to a year and a half process once a site is selected. It’s our intent to try to keep moving forward.”

Columbian Business Reporter

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