The multimillion-dollar remodel of the Aberdeen Timberland Regional Library is back on track after a COVID-related pause.
Library manager Stephanie Reece filled in the Aberdeen City Council on Wednesday, Oct. 13, regarding the progress made since the remodel was brought forward almost two years ago.
“A lot has happened since I last gave you an update on how we are doing. We talked at the end of 2019, and we were just beginning to talk about a remodel,” said Reece. “And a few months later we had a major disruption in our lives.”
The delay gave the library time to really focus in on a community’s library needs, during a pandemic and outside of one.
“We’ve done a lot of observing and learning how patrons are using our library, and a lot of assessing how a library would function in a pandemic and how it should function after,” said Reece.
“I named this remodel ‘Reconnecting Communities,’ and I think it’s more applicable now. More than ever, people coming through this pandemic are reconnecting, and we want that place to be at the library as a community center.”
The remodel is based on the current needs of the community and “will take us into the next 20-plus years,” said Reece.
She reached out to the community, who told her they wanted a vibrant, updated space, while keeping the charm and history of the original building. The brick exterior, for example, will remain, as will the large owl sculpture at the entrance.
Right now, the remodel is in the latter design stages with the bulk of the interior layout done. What’s left “are the really exciting steps where we need to find the colors, the features, the fixtures, the stuff that really makes it a library, what should be in it, and how it should look,” said Reece.
This phase should last about six months, “and then construction on the building could begin as early as June.” Construction is expected to take six to nine months, “so we could open a new library in 2023.”
During the remodel, the library wants to continue its service in some way and is looking to perhaps partner with some downtown business storefronts or mobile services like Timberland Regional Library is developing.
The remodel is funded through a large donation by Katherine N. Sherk in 2000 to the Grays Harbor Community Foundation, which resulted in $4 million for the remodel. With materials still at high prices, the final cost of the remodel could be anywhere from $2.5 million to $3.5 million, said Reece.
She went through some models of how the new space would look.
“The south entrance, as you’re coming in, this is a new view, with shorter shelving and enhanced lighting,” said Reece. “To the right we’ve got a large glass enclosed youth area. This will help with safety and their busy, noisy activities that kids need to be able to do when they’re growing up in a library.”
The second floor will be expanded to add another 2,500 square feet of additional space. There will be three large windows added to the parking lot side of the building to provide more daylight. There will be three meeting rooms upstairs, and a public restroom, and a second staircase that will lead to the front entrance.
Reece said 1,700 of the 2,500 new square feet will be what Reece calls the “west wing.”
“It’s going to lead you to have more space for collections and will have another meeting room that could be like a conference room for more medium-sized groups, 10-12 people,” she said. The “innovation lab,” a space where people can learn computer skills and how to use different types of software, and have access to a 3D printer, will be part of this west wing.
The back of the building will feature a pavilion, a lantern-style building. It will be brightly lit and provide a more welcoming entrance for visitors from the parking lot.
“This can also be used for expanded access hours,” said Reece. “What we would do is we could close the main library and we might be able to let patrons use their library cards to access this portion of the building, pick up their holds, use the computer, or maybe for quick printing and scanning opportunities. So it’s kind of giving patrons extra hours to use the library without necessarily staff there.”
The youth area is designed for children ranging in age from birth to 5 years old.
“It’s really important to connect children to the library early on, so we’re going to be doing some vibrant, bright spaces,” said Reece.
She’s hoping to get some local artists to contribute some work to the space. For more fun, she said “I really got my architect working on how we can make a slide work in the library.”
There will be another separate space for school age children, 6-12 years old.
“They don’t have a space right now, it’s kind of mixed in, and that’s no fun there,” said Reece. “So we thought, let’s bring in some ideas for them to be able to collaborate together and play, complete their school work or after-school projects, kind of in that same environment as (the youth area). They get their own space that’s independent and accessible and still safe and welcoming for them to hang out.”
The teens will have their own space as well. Their needs are quite different. Reece said suggestion included gaming chairs and large screen TVs — “So we’ll see, hopefully we can make a lot of their ideas happen,” she said.
Overall safety is another priority, with lighting, signage, and possibly security cameras and other safety aspects still in the works.
Timberland Regional Library Executive Director Sheryl Heywood put the size and scope of the Aberdeen remodel into perspective.
“This is a project that is like no other that I have seen,” she said. “We haven’t done a project like this for a good 20 years, and we are planning for the next 20 years.”
The end result will be something other libraries would look to for inspiration.
“This is going to be like the showcase library in Grays Harbor County,” said Heywood. “And we know that when new libraries are open or when libraries are remodeled like this, you can double or triple the people walking in through the door, because they will be so proud of their ‘community’s jewel,’ so to speak, and they will bring their friends, and so on.”