Winthrop ponders library expansion
WINTHROP – The Winthrop Public Library, intended to be temporary, falls 6,000 square feet short of the American Library Association’s recommendation for its valley service area.
The 1,000-square-foot building lacks 2,000 square feet to accommodate the immediate community alone, according to the ALA.
Then, there’s the issue of public space across the Methow, Shannon Polson said.
On a trajectory to develop a new, expanded library, Friends of the Winthrop Public Library has visited community groups around the region, gauging public opinion about the current space and the community’s needs.
Polson, the group’s president, said the assessment revealed a recurring theme: limited public space to serve Winthrop and the remaining Methow Valley.
The findings originated from “community conversations,” North Central Regional Library’s strategic planning survey, public comment at library events and the Winthrop town parks survey, which drew 147 responses.
Students in the Methow Valley School District may not feel safe going home after school, a parent told the group during one of its community talks. Yet, the library closes between 5:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. on weeknights.
From Methow at Home in Twisp, Polson learned few public venues exist for the valley’s aging population to engage in meaningful conversation and continued learning, she said.
Then, there’s the population of remote workers and students who seek public places rather than coffee shops or restaurants to cut costs, Polson said. An area resident told of a student enrolled in an online master’s degree program who left the valley for lack of study space and access to public computers, she said.
During a Winthrop Chamber of Commerce meeting, Polson learned Red Cross volunteers who came to Winthrop during the 2014 wildfires had to meet outside because there was nowhere else to go, she said.
Friends of the Winthrop Public Library’s vision for a future library includes a 7,000-squarefoot structure, possibly with bookshelves on casters to expand the space further, Polson said.
She envisions meeting rooms to host book clubs, study halls and public meetings, a makerspace for the working professional or student, a children’s area to probe curiosity and learning in a soundproof environment and a space set apart for young adults.
A makerspace could include 3D printers, programming software and audio and video recording booths, Polson said. Meanwhile, a children’s area could invite youngsters into the physical world with shapes, mirrors and activities to capture their interests, she said.
The group also hopes to increase the number of computer stations “significantly” and offer technology training.
Other possibilities include a children’s stage for performances, an interactive children’s science exhibit, a semi-permanent display of Methow settlement and Methow Tribe history, a memorial to Methow Veterans, a semi-permanent display of Nordic/Olympic history, an outdoor garden with library seating, a semi-permanent display of Methow ecology and a sustainable building with instructive displays, according to presentation notes.
An expanded space would also mean regional, state or national literary conferences, book festivals, writing workshops and the like could regularly meet in the valley, potentially boosting tourism, Polson said.
"I really, truly believe this project will really in a beautiful way transform our community," she said.
Once the community needs assessment has been finalized, the group will enter into a “robust” feasibility study, determining potential donors and foundation grants, she said.
Progress on the library’s development can be found here.
Winthrop Town Council scans the horizon, sees challenges
Informal workshop addresses issues, ideas, possibilities
By Don Nelson
The Winthrop Town Council is intent on finishing some things even as it looks forward to starting some new things.
At a workshop last week, council members said they would like to see more progress on some of the town’s biggest projects, such as the Susie Stephens Trail and the Riverwalk. The council covered a wide range of topics in the informal meeting.
Mayor Sally Ranzau, elected to the position in November, said that an advisory committee of downtown business and property owners has been working on ideas for the Riverwalk and that “they are progessing nicely … they are working together and it’s nice to see.” In the past, some property owners who would be affected by the Riverwalk had complained that they were not adequately included in the town’s planning process.
One project that is underway, Ranzau said, is that the town’s antiquated website is being updated and will be mobile-friendly. “It is a high priority and is being addressed,” she said.
As for the town’s “Winthrop In Motion” project to improve downtown mobility, Ranzau said, the town will soon post an online survey so residents can respond to proposals for improvements. A public meeting is also scheduled to review the proposals (see box).
Ranzau also noted that the Washington State Department of Transportation has installed a wooden railing in front of Three Fingered Jack’s at the four-way stop, to make the pedestrian ramp at the corner safer. The town has been seeking a solution to the unsafe conditions at that corner since last summer.
On other topics:
• The mayor reported that she and Twisp Mayor Soo Ing-Moody had been joined in a conference call by the Okanogan County commissioners to discuss the future of the North Cascades Smokejumper Base with Congressman Dan Newhouse. The base needs substantial funding to take care of necessary improvements and upgrades. Ranzau said she was encouraged by the discussion.
• Ranzau announced that the town’s longtime public works director, Rick Karro, will retire at the end of April. He has worked for the town since 1989. Ranzau said the town will begin looking for his replacement.
• The council spent some time parceling out assignments to represent the town on various committees and groups. Council member Bill McAdow said he would like to represent Winthrop at meetings of the Methow Watershed Council. Kirsten Vanderhalf said she would attend meetings of the Okanogan Council of Governments and TranGO, the countywide transit system. Council member Ben Nelson takes part in the Methow Valley Trails Collaborative. Council member William Kilby is chairman of the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee.
• Ranzau said the Winthrop Rink “is doing a great job” and “has been fantastic for the community.”
• The mayor said a proposed three-year operating agreement offered by the Winthrop Barn Association, which handles day-to-day operations at the Barn, needs more review and discussion. The previous 25-year agreement has expired.
• The town is still undecided on what to do with the old Public Works Department property on Bluff Street. A new public works building is now operational on Horizon Flats.
• Vanderhalf said she would like to see Town Hall fully staffed “so services are consistent in all processes and departments.”
In the audience were board members of the Friends of the Winthrop Library, a nonprofit formed to support library improvements including a new, larger building. The group’s chair, Shannon Polson, said the organization is working on assessing community needs before moving into planning and fundraising stages.
“We’re working on ideas,” Polson said. “It’s a vision that continues to develop. The current building is not adequate. It was meant to be temporary.”
Polson added that the library needs improved Internet connections to help in “cultivating and developing community literacy.”
By Ashley Lodato
Sometimes the period after the holidays is a bit of a let-down, especially if you overspent, so I thought I would note some of the great free things that are happening around the valley, in case you’re needing a little reminder that daily life is still full of interesting options that don’t blow the budget.
First, did you know that there is a free shuttle bus that runs between Winthrop and Mazama on Saturday mornings, giving you access to a ski along the iconic Methow Community Trail between Winthrop, Brown’s Farm, and Mazama without having cumbersome transportation logistics? You can save time, hassle, and fossil fuels by hopping on the ski bus. Visit methowtrails.org/winter-trails/trailheads for more information. (OK, the skiing is not free — gotta pay for the heavy equipment and personnel to keep those trails groomed — but the shuttle is.)
Another thing to celebrate is the work happening regarding the Winthrop Library. Friends of the Winthrop Library (FOWL) has set to work at a blistering pace, with the goal of improving and enhancing the Winthrop library’s facility and services. Big-picture plans include a new building, with square footage that would meet the American Library Association’s recommendations for a community the size of ours, with an expanded book collection, meeting and gathering spaces, and resources that support 21st-century endeavors (such as accessing higher education, navigating increasingly complex options for health care, and seeking employment).
Immediate projects include programs like the free after-school Art Labs on Friday afternoons from 3:45 – 4:45 p.m., the March Poetry Slam, and the Late-Winter Essay contest. FOWL is also sponsoring a scholarship for Liberty Bell High School seniors as well as some literacy-related art residencies in the school through Methow Arts.
At the December Poetry Slam (sorry if you missed it — it was great fun), one of the contestants, local handyman Joshua Dodds, read an original poem referring to the library as the “truth-brary” (get it? “lie-brary” versus “truth-brary”). And the truth is, individuals and communities alike benefit from a thriving library, so please consider learning more about FOWL’s goals at ww.winthroplibraryfriends.org.
One final free event: the Second annual William Stafford Birthday Reading will take place on Wednesday, Jan. 17, from 5 – 6:30 p.m. at Trail’s End Bookstore. This evening is a communal tribute to William Stafford, whose Methow River poems were commissioned by the U.S. Forest Service in 1992 to reflect the landscape and spirit of the North Cascades. Stafford has a dedicated readership in the Methow Valley (for good reason) and his birthday will be observed by local poets reading his poems aloud, celebrating — in Stafford’s words — the “long party” that life is. Learn more at www.methowarts.org/william-stafford-birthday-reading.