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Sno-Isle Libraries releases 10-year Plan

 


A new Arlington Library could be one of as many as seven new facilities in the Sno-Isle Libraries system over the coming decade, according to a plan unanimously approved by the library district’s Board of Trustees at the regularly scheduled July 25 meeting.

“We call it the ‘Capital Facilities Plan,’ but really it’s more of a statement of library building needs across the region,” Executive Director Jonalyn Woolf-Ivory said. “This plan responds to the services our customers are requesting and the growth in the communities we serve.”

The Arlington Library is one of three, along with Lake Stevens and Stanwood, called out in the plan as too small to meet current needs, let alone anticipated growth in those areas.

“These communities told us they want new libraries and we’re working with them to determine the best way forward,” Woolf-Ivory said.

Arlington voters have come tantalizingly close in the past to approving a new library. In the draft version of the now-approved plan, Arlington was slated for a renovation of the existing building. However, community input on the draft plan brought a change in the final version.

“We did make some changes,” Woolf-Ivory said. “The community told us they wanted more, that they want a new building, and that’s reflected in the plan approved by our trustees.”

The plan puts all library-district facilities in four broad categories: maintain, renovate, replace and areas of opportunity.

Most of the existing 21 libraries, and the administrative service center in Marysville, fall into the “maintain” category. These facilities are anticipated to meet current and projected needs with regular and ongoing maintenance, according to the plan.

One facility, the Mill Creek Library, is identified for renovation. Built in 1987 and expanded in 1992, the plan acknowledges that the library “is significantly undersized” for the community. However, further expansion at the current site may not be possible so the plan recommends renovating the building to maximize its service to the community.

The replace category includes Arlington, Lake Stevens and Stanwood.

The plan also has “Areas of Opportunity” category, which includes an interesting mix of projects.

“The common theme of these projects is addressing unserved or underserved community needs, as well as population growth,” Woolf-Ivory said.

Topping the list is an area identified in the plan as “128th Street/Mariner.”

“There are 30,000 people living in this island of unincorporated Snohomish County surrounded by Mukilteo, Everett, Mill Creek and Lynnwood,” Woolf-Ivory said of the area south of the Everett city limits which includes Mariner High School. “The tremendous library needs in the Mariner area were becoming apparent a decade ago, but the economic downturn put things on  hold.”

The plan calls for a “library demonstration project” for the area and Woolf-Ivory says it could be up and running in the first quarter of this coming year. Such a project could mean a library using leased space, staffed with existing Sno-Isle Libraries employees and stocked with existing materials and the normal collection-addition processes.

The plan calls for a second demonstration project in the Lakewood/Smokey Point area, where significant growth is occurring now with more expected by 2025, according to the plan. “The Camano Library (which opened in 2015), started as a demonstration project,” Woolf-Ivory said. “Using the demonstration-project model, I’m hoping we can provide increased services to Lakewood/Smokey Point by the fourth quarter of 2017.”

“This document reflects what we heard from our communities and customers,” Woolf-Ivory said. “We asked questions and listened. Residents told us they love their libraries and want more space to read, to study and to gather as a community.”

As for costs, that too, is determined through the collaborative process with each community.

“Size, location, new building or existing building, level of philanthropic support; there are many variables that can effect project cost,” Woolf-Ivory said. Library facilities are generally funded by capital bonds, which must be approved by voters in a designated Library Capital Facilities Area. “In the end, it is a decision by the community, not by Sno-Isle Libraries.”

Work on the plan began mid-2015 when the library district commissioned a study to look at the future of libraries. “We could see our own data, but we wanted to check our trends against a national perspective,” Woolf-Ivory said. Findings from that study, released in September, 2015, confirmed what Sno-Isle Libraries officials were seeing, that libraries are becoming places to meet, study, attend programs and use technology.

“More people are coming to the community libraries and they are coming for more than checking out a book,” Woolf-Ivory said. While numbers vary from library to library, data comparing the first quarter of 2015 and 2016 show an average 12 percent increase in people going to libraries across the district.

 

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