Omak Okanogan Chronicle, February 21, 2018

Winthrop ponders library expansion

  Friends of the Winthrop Public Library hoist the sign, "No place in any community is so totally democratic as the town library" during the 2017 Twisp Fourth of July Parade.

Friends of the Winthrop Public Library hoist the sign, "No place in any community is so totally democratic as the town library" during the 2017 Twisp Fourth of July Parade.

 

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.

Community needs

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.

Library vision

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.