COURTESY IMAGE 
A glass wall on the first floor of the Aberdeen Library will provide the youngest library patrons with a safe place to play and learn while offering quiet for older visitors.

COURTESY IMAGE A glass wall on the first floor of the Aberdeen Library will provide the youngest library patrons with a safe place to play and learn while offering quiet for older visitors.

Aberdeen Library ‘rejuvenation’ project will add space, services, color

A nine-month project that could start late this year will update and transform the Aberdeen Timberland Library to include increased computer space, larger and separate youth areas, and other touches designed to improve the experience for patrons and make the library a central part of the downtown area.

“It’s more of a rejuvenation of the space,” said library manager Stephanie Reece, than an overall remodel. It will mean finding a temporary location for the library during the work, she said.

The money for the project comes from a large donation by Katherine N. Sherk in 2000 to the Grays Harbor Community Foundation, resulting in $4 million specifically for improvements to the library. Sherk was, according to the library’s documentation of the project, “an avid reader and library visitor, a member of the long-standing Review Club of Aberdeen, and a wonderful friend.” Reece said the rejuvenation project in the works now will cost between $2.5 million and $3.5 million.

The current library building was constructed in 1966, replacing the original 1908 Carnegie building. The library was renovated and expanded in the late 90s and reopened in its current configuration in October 2000.

The changes coming are based on needs and priorities identified by the library and Timberland Regional Library.

“One thing we are needing more of is computer use (space),” said Reece. “We are the highest users of computers in the five county Timberland district.” The rejuvenation project will increase the number of computer stations by 15% and increase spacial distance between patrons. “More space equals less friction,” said Reece.

“We are also looking into the future of libraries to see what Aberdeen could be,” said Reece. The rejuvenation will include a second floor learning lab, called the SKILLS Learning Lab. It will have some of the more popular, and expensive, computer software, such as Adobe products, available, and patrons can use the lab to learn those programs and in turn enhance their skill sets to improve their value in the job market.

Reece is excited about expanded areas targeting youth in several age ranges.

“One thing I’m very excited about is the youth, and families are getting excited about the three separate age-appropriate spaces,” she said.

Youth are split into three groups – birth to age 5, school age, and teens, “because they all learn and grow differently.” All told, an additional 500 square feet of space will be used for youth.

The new design calls for a glass partition between the youth spaces and adult spaces, “which helps with issues like noise,” said Reece. “We want kids in here growing, excited to be here, and we want adults to have a quiet and restful place, too.”

The glass wall’s doors will also add another element of safety and provide “a good family oriented environment,” said Reece. Teens will also have a larger space, “and they get to design their own space.”

Expansion of the second floor will add another 2,500 square feet of usable space, said Reece, and allow patrons to spread out and “flex how they use the library, move the furniture around to make a space that works for them that day.” There will also be a second floor bathroom, and a second staircase that access the second floor, so there will be one at the front and one at the back of the building.

The ambiance of the library will get an upgrade with eco-friendly LED lighting, which “is really going to make this place pop,” said Reece. “And there is going to be a lot of color. We’re going to use a community artist to do a mural in the children’s area, and maybe elsewhere.”

There will also be four more meetings rooms, six in total, available for free use for groups of up to 60.

Reece has been working on forming local partnerships to become a more visible fixture in downtown.

“The goal is to be more active in the downtown,” said Reece. “Nobody thinks of the library as a partner or an active member of the community, and we want to change that. We’ve done a lot of partnership work over the last six months.”

One of those partners is the Coastal Community Action Program, housed right next door.

“They are doing a big remodel, too,” said Reece, so the two are working in partnership to make sure they’re not doubling their efforts. Reece said the discussion is, “let’s not do the same thing. Let’s make this block worth coming to see. The goal is to make a destination of the library.” To that end, the library is also working with the city’s museum board as it looks for a home for its collection and forges its future path.

A pavilion is included in the library design, added to the existing building in the south parking area.

“It’s a transition space,” said Reece. “What we wanted to do was have people feeling more safe coming in from the parking lot. And they can be loud, take off their coats, you can put yourself together” before you enter the library. It’s also envisioned as a place where some things can be done outside of regular library hours, like picking up holds and printing.

Reece said the timeline currently is to find a temporary location to house the library during the project, with relocation to that space possibly in December 2021 or January 2022. With a work period of an estimated nine months, the revamped library could be ready to go in the fall of 2022 or early in 2023.

A remodel website has been set up that gives details on the planned construction and includes videos and photos of the current building and the vision for the future, accessed at https://spark.adobe.com/page/4IYIl8Yfks0DP/.

While the “official” period for public comment on the project ended Jan. 31, Reece said she is more than happy to continue listening to suggestions from the public while the final plans are nailed down through the spring. Comments and suggestions can be sent to aberdeenredesign@trl.org, or call 360-533-2360.

Currently, Timberland Regional Library locations, including Aberdeen and Hoquiam, are offering curbside service — TRL is calling it Library Takeout.

Aberdeen

Schedule: Tuesday-Friday, Saturday. Hours: weekdays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Items can be returned 24/7. For more info, call 360-533-2360

Hoquiam

Schedule: Tuesday – Saturday. Hours: Tuesday —Thursday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Friday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Items can be returned 24/7. For more info, call 360-532-1710.

Service updates can be found online at https://www.trl.org/plan, and on the Aberdeen and Hoquiam branches’ Facebook pages.