What’s wrong with the current library?

Ten years ago, the WInthrop library moved into its current space, which was always intended to be temporary. As library users will attest, and as 18 months of needs assessment indicates, At only 1141 square feet, it is clearly insufficient for programming for either children or adults. If any programming is held in the library for any group, the library cannot be accessed. The collection is extremely limited. Technology options and work space are extremely limited. The land itself lies in a floodway and the Town considers it inappropriate to build on that site.

How do you know what the community needs in a new library?

Great question. We’ve spent over 18 months conducting a community needs assessment, including community conversations, a survey as part of the Town of Winthrop’s Parks and Rec survey, expert interviews, focus groups and a heavily attended community Hopes and Dreams Workshop. The program that will be developed is based on the input of the community, along with library best practices.

What are the key things you’ve heard from the community?

Almost universally we heard a desire for a light filled and inspired space to gather and to learn, the critical need for meeting rooms, an engaging children’s area with acoustic insulation from adult spaces, a teen space, ample technology platforms to enable access, training and education, and a strong connection to the outside. It’s clear we need flexible space as well, that can be used for many purposes.

Why a library? Do people need libraries anymore? So much is online, and I just order the books I want.

If you order online, you’re lucky. If you read books online, you’re in the upper eschelon of the population that has access to and adequate understanding of technology. The reality is that the Winthrop branch has the HIGHEST CIRCULATION per capita in the entire NCRL library system. The Winthrop Library supports 30 bookclubs. (30!) We are readers in this valley.

But it’s also critically important to understand that libraries today are so much more than what we think of from the 1970s and 80s. Books still form the spine and the soul of the library, but the 21st century library is a community hub and information and resource center. It is a place to gather, to learn, to meet, to search for jobs, to attend events, to discover, to find opportunity, to share opportunity, and to move forward into the future--together. Perhaps most importantly, the public library is, as it has proudly proclaimed since the days of Carnegie, free for all.

Why now?

The Methow Valley is at a tipping point today. The urban and rural divide is at crisis levels across the country, and our valley is no exception. With technology access and robust programming, a 21st century library has the power to transform lives across all of our community while building the relationships that lead to resilience. This transformation will last for generations. We have a choice-- to provide opportunity to all of our community and strengthen the social fabric as we move into the future, or see possibilities for local residents continue to dwindle, worsening the inequality, and the rural aspects that make this community special for all of us fall away.

From a funding perspective, this project comes after the end of the Little Star Campaign and in advance of expected future campaigns, respecting limitations on valley resources and attention.

How did you pick the location for a new library?

After a year of working closely with the Town of Winthrop, the location selected for the library met the criteria of being visible, walkable and accessible by public and school transit. With the broader goal of strengthening the fabric of community, the new location sits in proximity to both Little Star Montessori early childhood education and Jamie’s Place, our elder housing. The Susie Stephens walking trail runs along the side. It is across the street from the town trailhead and from Title 1 housing. There could not be a better location for our community.

We were inspired to look at this opportunity in part because the Town of Winthrop, there are no social services available, and the only public gathering space is the library with its limited hours and extremely limited quarters.

Because the library serves the broader valley community, its location must serve the community all the way up to Lost River. Winthrop is the most central location to serve our valley.

I heard the library was going to be xx dollars and xx square feet?

Schematics have not yet been developed for the library. Outside of a conceptual program to promote dialogue and conversation, there are no realistic numbers that make sense to socialize yet. We will have a better feel for this as schematics are developed in conjunction with additional community conversations by late spring.

What does the Twisp library think?

Dawn Woodruff is thrilled (ask her!) She loves her library and is excited for Winthrop to develop the facility our valley needs. She also knows, as North Central Regional Library has noted, that any time there are significant improvements to one library branch, the ripple effect helps all libraries in proximity (as well as businesses, by the way).

How do you determine what is the right size?

Partly by the needs of the community articulated through the needs assessment-- think about study and meeting rooms, space to read and study, teen space, kid space, collection space, technology platforms, and how that translates to space that is required.

There are other guidelines as well. Library spaces in rural Burlington, WA come to 2.1 square feet per capita. In more urban districts, where it should be noted there is greater proximity to other libraries and other resources, size is anywhere from 1.0-2.6 square feet per capita.  

The Methow Valley has a full time population of a reported 7,000-10,000 residents, with an equal number of part-time residents. This brings our population to between 14,000-20,000 full and part-time residents.. Tourist numbers swell an additional 30,000. Estimating part time residents at 50%, this produces a population number of 14,000.

This data, combined with what will become apparent in the capital campaign, will all drive discussions on the appropriate size for this community public space.