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April 4, 2020

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Woodland Community Library is ready to grow

Small building struggles to accommodate patrons, service

By , Columbian Staff Writer
Published:
6 Photos
Nine-month-old Haddie Gordon, left, and sister Willow, 3, amuse themselves with Play-Doh on Thursday morning outside the Woodland Community Library during its Sensory Play in the Park event. Library staffers hope they will be able to host more activities for kids and families once the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District raises enough money to construct a bigger building in Woodland. Zach Wilkinson/The Columbian
Nine-month-old Haddie Gordon, left, and sister Willow, 3, amuse themselves with Play-Doh on Thursday morning outside the Woodland Community Library during its Sensory Play in the Park event. Library staffers hope they will be able to host more activities for kids and families once the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District raises enough money to construct a bigger building in Woodland. Zach Wilkinson/The Columbian Photo Gallery

WOODLAND — It’s not uncommon to see Woodland Community Library services take place outside of the building.

On Thursday morning, Elizabeth Griffin, senior library assistant, led a Sensory Play in the Park event for toddlers, allowing kids to dig through sand for rubber animals, dip their hands into covered buckets to figure out what they contained and squish shaving cream between their hands.

“We’d love to do more activities for kids like this if we had some more room,” she said.

The field near the library sees plenty of library action, as it’s also home to the summer reading program, which saw an attendance record set earlier this year when 350 people showed up to see the Oregon Bird Man and meet some of his animals. Last year, the program averaged about 250 people.

Staffers at the Woodland library, 770 Park St., are hoping the actual building will get to host some more events and programs in the coming years. The Fort Vancouver Regional Library District is working toward raising enough money to construct a new facility. Earlier this week, the Fort Vancouver Regional Library Foundation announced that it will receive a $515,000 grant to help fund design and site preparation work. The money was part of the 2019-21 state capital budget.

Approximately $2 million has been raised to construct the new building, which is expected to cost between $4 million and $4.5 million, said Jennifer Hauan, branch manager. In 2017, the library district purchased 2.4 acres at 828 Goerig St. for a little more than $1 million to be its future home. A feasibility study said the new building could be as large as 10,000 square feet, Hauan said.

There’s not much room for activities in the current library, a 2,000-square-foot building built in 1909, according to Hauan. The regular storytime program can feel cramped in the upstairs children’s area. Some reading programs take place next door at the community center, which has a capacity of around 45 people.

“There are some days where people come in and there are no spaces left,” Hauan said. “It’s not unusual to see someone sitting on the floor (in the library).”

That’s led staffers to drum up interest in the library by going outside of the building.

Last school year, Griffin started a monthly pop-up library at Woodland High School. She would bring books to the school and talk to students about the library’s materials and programs. Hauan said she’s tried to attend more community meetings, such as Rotary club and Chamber of Commerce.

“We see that response, not only just at our door count but using our services,” she said. “I get questions about downloading e-books while out getting groceries now.”

When Woodland staffers discuss what they and their patrons want from a new building, the most desired amenities are community meeting rooms and more personal work space. The current building has a few computers at desks, and a few computers at standing desks, allowing for storage underneath them. Other seats for visitors have tiny desks attached to an armrest.

The new building will have more parking and be accessible to people with disabilities. Hauan said library staffers have also talked about more seating, increasing the size of the children’s area, adding a teen space, adding more computers, increasing the size of the collection and having a dedicated staff space. Currently, the staffers all sit at the resource desk except for Hauan, who is located in the “Harry Potter office.”

A library having a room named for one of literature’s most famous characters isn’t unusual. In Woodland, however, the name is more in honor of the office’s location than a celebration of reading; the office is located underneath the stairs. Besides a desk and a computer, the cramped office with a sloped ceiling is also used for storage.

The Woodland branch currently has five staffers. Hauan said there has been talk of hiring another full-time employee once the bigger branch is built, and possible extending hours. It is currently open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesdays. Hauan said the branch could look into adding some Saturday hours with a bigger building and more staff.

One thing that won’t change with a new location, Hauan said, is the branch’s partnerships. The library has held fundraisers and events with various organizations around Woodland.

“When you don’t have the space, you take the library service to them,” she said. “We’re not going to stop with a bigger building.”

Ridgefield, Washougal

The Woodland library isn’t the only branch in the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District looking to make some changes. The Battle Ground Community Library went through some renovations earlier this year.

Tak Kendrick, communications and marketing director for the library district, said there will be a meeting at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 13 in the Ridgefield Community Center, 210 N. Main Ave., to discuss two options for expanding the Ridgefield library. In May 2018, the Fort Vancouver Regional Library board voted to accept the donation of the Ridgefield Community Center building for expansion of the Ridgefield Community Library. The two facilities have been sharing the building.

Kendrick wrote in an email that Fort Vancouver Regional Library retained architectural firm Johansson Wing, and had two meetings with patrons and stakeholders. The district and firm are looking at two options based on those meetings. One is a renovation of the current 8,000-square-foot building. Currently, the library occupies about 2,000 square feet and the rest was the community center. The second option would move the eastern wall of the building to add another 3,000 square feet, expanding the library to roughly 11,000 square feet total.

That would, of course, add to the projected costs. Earlier in the year, Amelia Shelley, executive director of Fort Vancouver Regional Libraries, said the district had about $3 million set aside for project, which is expected to cost somewhere around $3.8 million to $4 million.

In his email, Kendrick said the district is still working with a donor for a new Washougal branch library. The current facility is about 2,000 square feet and is located in City Hall. Shelley said earlier in the year that the hope is to build a new location that’s around 12,000 square feet, and that project could also cost somewhere in the $4 million to $5 million range.

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