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Washougal library manager has bittersweet goodbye; updates community on quest for new library building

Public can meet with architects, give input on what community hopes to see inside new library facility on March 16

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Washougal Community Library patrons look at books on April 20, 2021. (Contributed photo courtesy of Rachael Ries)

Rachael Ries says she has thoroughly enjoyed her tenure as the branch manager for Fort Vancouver Regional Library’s Washougal location. 

During the past five years, she’s worked hard to form positive community relationships and create long-lasting productive partnerships that benefit everyone involved. She will always look back on her time in Washougal with fondness and pride.

That’s why Ries describes her upcoming job change – she is set to leave the Washougal branch to take over as the branch manager of FVRL’s Cascade Park library on April 1 –  as “bittersweet.”

“I am really connected to the community, and we have a lot of partners and partnerships that I created and established, and that’s going to be really difficult to leave behind,” Ries said. “Hillary Marshall, the librarian at the high school, and I have done a lot of work together, and you just don’t find community partners like that all the time. Bolt and Amy (Minister) over at 54-40 Brewing Company do so much for our community, too. We started the book group over there and early on helped them get started with trivia, which they now run themselves. All of these different ways that we have tried to provide opportunities and reach people in Washougal rather than just in the confines of the library, I’m going to miss that.”

Ries joined the FVRL system in 2012, when she was hired as a library assistant for the downtown Vancouver branch. She was promoted to circulation supervisor later that year, took the same role in Washougal in January 2014, accepted a reference librarian position at the Vancouver Community Library in March 2015 and succeeded Christine Hughey as Washougal’s branch manager in December 2015. 

“Part of the reason why I wanted to move to Cascade Park is that it’s a good opportunity for my professional growth,” Ries said. “It’s a larger branch, and I will be able to mentor and work with more staff. There is specifically one librarian, a supervising librarian in training, a newer position for our district, and it will be really nice to mentor her and help her develop. That, for me, is a big part of where I’m heading with where I see my leadership and roles in the district.”

Ries said that she will miss her coworkers and the Washougal residents who visited the library on a regular basis.

“We have an outstanding team here,” she said. “We work really well (together). They’re dedicated and creative, and they really care about the community and the library. It’s a good mix of personalities. … And I wouldn’t be the librarian I am without (the patrons). I know that sounds a little cliché, but it’s true. They’ve been incredibly supportive. I can show up in different places like Safeway and folks would talk to me because they recognize me from the library. That connection, being in a community and part of that community, I’m going to miss that, too.”

Ries has been heavily involved in helping bring a new library to downtown Washougal, which the FVRL has committed to building at some point in the next several years. She won’t be the new facility’s first manager, as she previously thought she might be, but said she is still excited about the project. 

“It would’ve been nice to see that project come to fruition, but I’m really proud of how much we did,” she said. “We had the ‘Dinner in White’ four years in a row and raised a lot of money. I’ve helped the Friends (of the Washougal Library) with some of their big fundraising events, and the (FVRL) foundation has been integral in those big fundraising projects like ‘Dinner in White.’ We’ve made really good progress, and I feel good about that. But even though I might be managing Cascade Park, I’m still invested in Washougal getting their library, because I work for the same library district.”

The Friends of Washougal Library will hold a “farewell celebration” for Ries from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, March 18, at the library, 1661 “C” St., Washougal. 

Community meetings to discuss future library set for March 16

FVRL will hold its second round of community input meetings, featuring the architects of Washougal’s new library, on Wednesday, March 16. 

The first session will take place from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Children’s Home Society of Washington’s East Clark County Resource Center, 1702 “C” St., Washougal. The second session will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. at 54-40 Brewing Company, 3801 S. Truman Road, Washougal.

Employees from Hacker Architects, the Portland-based firm FVRL selected in 2021 to lead the library’s conceptual and schematic design process, will show four different options for how the future Washougal library building might fit on the 17,424-square-foot parcel of downtown Washougal land near the intersection of “C” and Main streets, donated by Lone Wolf Development’s Wes Hickey in 2020. 

Ries said the second round of community meetings will be similar to the first meetings to discuss the future Washougal library, with the architects presenting information and taking questions and comments from the public. 

“We’ve completed the site evaluation,” Ries said, “and (the architects have) done some preliminary measuring and testing. One of the challenges that we have is that there’s a 6-foot slope, and that’s what they’ve had to look at — how to situate the library and still keep it on one level. That’s our goal — we do not want a two-level building if we can avoid it, and it looks like we’ll be able to do it on a single story. It’s more cost-effective and also easier to manage from a staffing and safety standpoint.”

The first public meeting, held in July 2019, was successful thanks to its high level of participation and thoughtful feedback from the Washougal community, Ries said.

“We really did comb through (the input), and the architects have taken those things to heart,” she said. “I think those input sessions were very helpful in hearing what our community wants and letting the architects know how to lay out the site and what to incorporate into the building.”

Ries said the architects are tentatively scheduled to come back for a third public meeting in the summer of 2022 to present their “full rendering of what the library could potentially look like on the inside and out in much more detail.”

There are still several unknowns when it comes to the future library, however, including when Washougal residents might see construction begin on the downtown site. 

“It’s really hard to say,” Ries said. “It is really based on our funding. The (library) district approved another $1.5 million toward our project, so it’s coming along, but an actual date, I couldn’t say. We’re roughly estimating $7.5 million to build a 13,000-square-foot library, and we’re (collected) just under $4 million, so we still have $3.5 to $4 million left to raise. This has really been more of a marathon versus a sprint.”

Fundraising group seeks new leader

The Friends of Washougal Library – a group that has been instrumental in fundraising for the new library facility – is currently seeking a new president. 

“It’s an active group, and they’re supportive and very invested in this new library,” Ries said, “so it’d be a good group to join.”

The Friends group held a meeting where “several ideas were brainstormed” in February, according to the group’s secretary, Kimberly Wongwai.

“(Acting vice president) Jan Frietag is involved in a book club in the area, and she suggested perhaps there would be a way to reach out to other local book clubs in order to generate interest in our Friends group,” Wongwai said. “We have a lot of opportunities for involvement in various activities and at various levels of commitment during this exciting time as the new Washougal library is in the design stage.”

For more information about the Friends group, email washougalfriends@gmail.com.

MAJOR EVENTS IN QUEST TO BUILD NEW WASHOUGAL LIBRARY

Fort Vancouver Regional Library (FVRL) is working to build a new facility for the Washougal Community Library that will provide more materials, resources, internet and computer access, as well as a larger space for meetings, programs and workshops.

Following are a few of the major highlight’s from the decade-long quest to build a bigger library in Washougal:

2013: A facilities study by consulting firm BergerABAM identifies the need for new library facilities in Woodland, Ridgefield and Washougal.

October 2014: A pre-design study by FFA Architecture and Interiors recommends library square footage, features and possible costs.

2015-18: FVRL works with community stakeholders to find a suitable site for the new library. The Friends of Washougal Community Library group begins its fundraising efforts.

June 2019: The FVRL Board of Trustees sets aside $1.45 million from its capital reserve plan to help build the new Washougal library.

September 2019: The annual Dinner in White fundraiser raises $102,000 for the building project fund.

November 2020: Wes Hickey, of Lone Wolf Development, LLC, donates a 17,000-square-foot lot on Durgan Street, between Main and “C” streets, for the new library. T

February 2021: FVRL searches for an architect to create a conceptual design for the library

May 2021: FVRL selects Portland-based Hacker Architects to lead the conceptual and schematic design process for the new library.

July 29, 2021: FVRL holds a public meeting seeking input from the community on what Washougal residents hope to see in the new library.

August 2021: FVRL uses surveys to gather input from the community.

March 2022: Fundraising is around halfway point, with just under $4 million raised for the new, 13,000-square-foot library.

March 16, 2022: FVRL will hold a second round of meetings seeking input from community members.

Summer/fall 2022 (tentative): FVRL plans to hold a third round of public input meetings.