Fort Vancouver Regional Library (FVRL) has officially acquired property for a new library in Washougal.
In April 2019, Washougal residents Wes and Diane Hickey agreed to donate a vacant, 18,000-square-foot parcel of land on the intersection of Main and Durgan streets in downtown Washougal for the future library. Since then, FVRL has been doing “due diligence” on the property.
“I’m really excited,” said Rachael Ries, manager of FVRL’s Washougal Community Library. “There hasn’t been a lot of good news during the pandemic, so the fact that we can move forward with this land is great. We have a lot of fundraising to do, but when people see where this is going to happen, hopefully we’ll get some great donations. During the pandemic, we’ve seen that the library is loved and that there’s a ton of support from the community.”
FVRL’s efforts to build a new library began in December 2013 after a facilities study conducted by a local consulting firm identified the need for new library facilities in Washougal, Ridgefield and Woodland.
Roy DeRousie, president of the Friends of Washougal Library fundraising group, told the Post-Record in March that the new library will cost about $5 million.
“Anything with positive momentum feels double-good because everything is harder right now, ” said Amelia Shelley, FVRL’s executive director. “We want the community to know that what we’re getting is going to work for us. We have so much appreciation for the donors for making this possible.”
Now that the acquisition is complete, FVRL will search for an architect to design the project.
“We want this to be a public process,” Shelley said. “We want community members to be involved because we want them to get the library they want and deserve. We’re excited about the location; it’s a great place for a library. This is a positive opportunity for Washougal. We’re very excited. It’s finally here.”
The fundraising group is moving ahead with its efforts to collect money for the project, according to Ries.
“They’re doing some things differently (as a result of the pandemic),” Ries said. “They were planning to have a small pop-up book sale (on Oct. 4) with social distancing, hand sanitizer and all of the state guidelines in place. They’re also looking at doing some things online, or holding virtual fundraisers. They’ve been investigating a lot of options.”
FVRL is offering a slew of new “curbside pickup” options, and virtual programming to effectively replace its in-person gatherings, such as book-group discussions. It’s also greatly expanded its book-by-mail program.
“Overall, the reaction has been extremely positive,” Shelley said. “People are happy to have access to the materials.”
The demand for FVRL’s digital offerings has increased by 30 percent, according to Shelley.
“We’re so lucky to have electronic resources that allow us to continue to serve people,” she said. “We’ve shifted more of our spending to e-books and audio-books, and expanded our canopy film database to serve people remotely.”
Ries led a group of employees to implement the curbside pickup system at every one of the FVRL locations.
“I knew it was going to be a district-wide service, and I wanted us to be able to make changes and adapt as we went along,” she said. “I wanted it to go well, and I wanted it to be a team effort. A lot of the staff members were apprehensive at first. We set up training and went through a lot of what-if scenarios, but we really haven’t had any negative interactions with patrons.”
Shelley has been impressed with Ries’ efforts.
“She stepped up and volunteered to take the lead, and she’s been running that team since March and April,” Shelley said. “It’s a big-time commitment for her, and she’s done a tremendous job.”
Ries has also participated in FVRL’s new virtual programs, “starring” in two of FVRL’s “Creation Lab” videos. In one, she shows viewers how to make guacamole, and in the other, she encourages children to use common household items to create their favorite literary character.
“We’ve learned a lot (about technology), and it’s been really fun,” she said. “My staff loves to be creative and to see their ideas come together.”
Some of the new innovations will outlast the pandemic, according to Ries.’
“One of things I don’t think will go away is the curbside service,” she said. “We adopted it because we had to. However, it’s really beneficial. Think about the seniors in our community, or people with a mobility issue. They may not want to get out of their car, so we can take their items to them. Also, we will go back to having in-person discussions, but we’ll probably also keep some online discussions as well so that more people can have access (to our offerings).”