A study commissioned by Fort Vancouver Regional Library District (FVRL) calls for building new libraries in Ridgefield and Woodland at an estimated cost of $3.75 million apiece. The report also calls for expanding the Battle Ground Community Library, with land acquisition to cost about $165,000.

Those were among 40 potential projects suggested by Vancouver consulting firm BergerABAM, which spent the past year researching needs throughout the library district. The goal was to find out how to provide better access to services and collections for the 448,000 residents in four counties served by the district, according to FVRL spokeswoman Sue Vanlaanen.

Construction is a long way off, she said, if it occurs at all. The library district could contribute $500,000 to both the Ridgefield and Woodland facilities, but the rest of the cost would have to be paid through other sources, the study determined. BergerABAM’s study put much of the financial burden on city residents, with a $1,150,000 voter-approved bond recommended in Ridgefield and a $970,000 bond in Woodland.

The firm said almost half of the construction cost should come from donations by individuals or corporations – $1.9 million for the Woodland project and $1.7 million for Ridgefield. The study called philanthropy “a critical component of the funding framework.” Other funding sources could be state capital grants, local real estate excise taxes and impact fees, the consulting firm said.

Woodland’s need for a new library stems partly from what the study called the “unsatisfactory” condition of its current building. Woodland Communty Library was built in 1909 and was remodeled in 1998. It has 2,376 square feet of space and the study suggests 10,000 square feet for a new building.

A high growth forecast in Woodland and the current high level of library use relative to the building’s size were also cited as needs for a new library. The FVRL leases the current site from the City of Woodland.

Justin Keeler, Woodland’s head librarian, didn’t mince words when discussing shortcomings of the present building.

“It’s a fairly miserable situation as far as providing the types of services the community needs,” he said. “It’s not handicap accessible in any stretch of the imagination. The restroom is on the second floor and there’s no elevator. It’s hot in summer and freezing cold in winter.”

There are only four computers with Internet access, and Keeler said patrons often find “hearty competition to get access to that resource.”

He added the library doesn’t have room for events it wants to hold for local residents. Instead, the library uses the adjacent Woodland Community Center, if space is available there on the desired day.

Keeler explained that FVRL has contracted with an architectural firm to set up community meetings to discuss what stakeholders want in a new library, to analyze potential sites, and to start the conversation about how to get funding.

High demand relative to the building’s size also was listed as a reason that Ridgefield needs a new library, along with the city’s high growth forecast. Ridgefield Community Library has 2,055 square feet of space and, like Woodland, should have 10,000 square feet in its new building, the report stated. The library district leases the current space from Ridgefield Community Center.

Sean McGill, Ridgefield library’s branch manager, said more room is needed, especially for children’s story time sessions.

“Sometimes we have 20 kids and their parents, and there’s just not enough space,” he said.

The noise level in the library rises after school when students flock to the library. McGill said that could be solved with a larger facility that has separate spots for different uses, including areas for those who value quiet.

“I’d like to see more accessible technology and a bigger collection” of books, he said.

The Battle Ground library needs to be larger because of the city’s high growth forecast and current high level of demand by residents, according to the study. The library, which is owned by FVRL, was built in 2009 and has 14,000 square feet of space.

The study indicated that La Center Community Library needs to find a location with more certain leasing conditions. The library is now leased from Robert L. Colf and the study says the agreement lacks “certainty on term of use.”

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