The Astoria Public Library is one step closer to renovation, thanks to consultant Ruth Metz, who hosted a library advocates meeting to create a vision for the library Wednesday at the Clatsop County Heritage Museum.

Library Director Jane Tucker, members of the Astoria Friends Library Association, Community Development Director Brett Estes, City Councilwoman Arline LaMear and other select community members were invited to participate in a visioning exercise for two hours in an upstairs board room.

“Thank you for coming,” Library Board Chairman David Oser said. “We are very very excited to kick off this planning process that is really the very first concrete step for revitalization and renovation of the library that we all love.”

Metz first discussed the timeline of her participation in the renovations as a consultant who, with her team, will be coming up with a needs assessment report. The first public meeting will be conducted from 5 to 7 p.m. Aug. 6 at the Liberty Theater’s McTavish Room. There, a presentation on the “Library of the Future” and a draft of the needs assessment report will be discussed.

Then, in September, a second public meeting that has yet to be scheduled will present the final needs assessment report to the community, as well as a building program and a cost estimate.

In October, the project will wrap up and funding sources, such as grants, will be identified.

“We’re also going to have the library board members and some of the staff at a Sunday Market following each one of the public meetings,” Estes said. “It’s for people who can’t make it to a formal public meeting, to be able to stop by and do a meet and greet to try to get as much input as possible.”

Metz said besides the public meetings, her group is also assessing the building and doing interviews with people in the community for additional information.

“Key informants, people who know what’s going on in terms of the genealogy collection, historical material,” were involved, she said. “We’re going to do focus groups, particularly with parents, mothers of children, the Sunday Market, and we’re going to do a very targeted survey, as well. We have a lot of things feeding into the assessment.”

Once the building program – a set of instructions for the architect in the future phase – is complete, it will be up to the city to pursue designing a library to fit the city’s needs. Part of the needs assessment will be to discuss whether the library will fit into the current building’s footprint or whether that will need to be reconstructed or added on to.

Something not up for discussion Wednesday, however, was the design of the outside of the library.

But, as one participant at the meeting noted, it will all come down to money and sustainablity.

“The Seattle Library,” ALFA member Steve Emmons said, “they spent millions of dollars building this great glass cube and now, the city can’t afford to keep it open and the staff to run it. So through this process we need to keep that in mind. ‘If you build it, they will come’ is not always true.”

Metz asked members at the meeting to comment on what needs the library currently has.

“We’ve heard top on the list so far is light, light, light,” Metz said. “So that certainly enters into our consideration. ... Those are design features but they are also service features and we want to recognize that.”

Others brought up the need for a children’s space, sufficient meeting areas, and the basics – the books.

LaMear, a former school librarian for more than 20 years, said it breaks her heart that there are no school librarians left in the city of Astoria. She expressed her hope that the process with Ruth Metz and Associates would address sparking a passion in young people for libraries.

“One of the things that’s extremely sad for me is that there are no school librarians left in the city of Astoria,” she said. “It just breaks my heart every time I think about it, that these kids are not getting library skills, so many things. So I think that, and also we need to spark a passion somehow in our teens for coming to the library. So I think youth in general are really critical. A good children’s room, a good teen area.”

Clatsop Community College’s Candice Watkins said youth and teens are populations libraries can strongly connect with. “They have a strong need for libraries, and they are also the future of libraries,” she said.

New releases and a countywide library loan system, important in all formats from ebooks and paperbacks, were requested. As were meeting spaces and comfortable chairs.

Tucker said at the top of her list and the list of the current children’s librarian is a restroom specifically designed for children with little sinks and enough space for strollers when parents with multiple children assist in the room.

Seaside librarian

Historical Society Director Mac Burns reminded those at the meeting to be realistic about programs and wants from the library staff, because efficiency in maintaining those programs and staff time are just as important as introducing them. He said they should look at making collaborations that make sense.

Esther Moberg, director of the Seaside Public Library, was in attendance and offered her input in the library renovation process, from a library that had undergone an upgrade a few years ago.

Moberg said if they had it to do over, she would ask for more storage space, a security system so materials are not stolen, more tutoring rooms and an enclosed teen area that is still visible through glass, but encases the noise more efficiently.

The consensus at the meeting was to make the library more welcoming to visitors and residents. Self-checkout areas, to give librarians more time for shelving and programs, as well as a coffee shop and book sales, were also discussed.

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