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KCLS to begin looking for temporary site for branch library

The King County Library Service has begun looking for a temporary site to house the Vashon branch during its full-scale renovation project, expected to occur sometime next year.

Donna McMillen, a Federal Way-based administrator who oversees the Vashon Library, said in an e-mail to several Islanders that KCLS officials hope to find a space “that will accommodate most of our collections, computers, staff area, phone/data connectivity and holds.” She also hopes there will be room for the branch to continue its popular story times program during the renovation, a project that will likely take about a year.

When KCLS has had to temporarily close branches in other communities, the regional library system has sometimes offered up very minimal space — only enough, in some instances, for patrons to pick up books they’ve put on hold or drop off items that are due. But McMillen said she and others at KCLS realize that likely won’t work on Vashon, where the library acts as a hub for the community and where no other branch locations exist.

“With Vashon, I want to take a different approach and find a big enough space,” McMillen said in a brief interview. “It may be cozy. But that’ll be OK. We’ll squeeze as much in as we can.”

McMillen’s words came as welcome news to those in the community who have been paying attention to KCLS’s expansion plans on Vashon.

Initially, KCLS staff had said it was possible Vashon would end up with only a drop-off/pick-up site for books, something that troubled Island activists. Administrators have also said it was possible they wouldn’t have any money for a temporary branch and would need free space; in McMillen’s recent e-mail, she said that there’s “a limited budget for paying for a temporary library location.”

Islander Bonnie de Steiguer said McMillen’s e-mail “went a long ways towards reassuring me.”

“I was feeling a little insecure about what would actually be provided,” she said.

But Kay Johnson, KCLS’s facilities development dir-ector, said the agency’s efforts to ensure Vashon has adequate library space during the renovation project should be framed “as a hope.”

“It’ll be real modest,” she added.

KCLS’s architects are in the final phase of designing a significant remodel of the Vashon branch, expanding the now cramped library from around 6,000 square feet to nearly 10,000 square feet. Johnson said KCLS officials plan to meet with Wendy Braicks, executive director of the Vashon Park District, and a board member or two late in February to unveil their final plans.

“We’re finishing the design based on what people were pleased with seeing” at an open house last fall, Johnson said. “I’m keeping in close touch with the park district.”

The branch is located at Ober Park, owned by the Vashon Park District.

Once a renovation plan is finalized, KCLS will need to get permits — a sometimes lengthy process, Johnson said. At this point, KCLS expects to break ground in about a year.

Robert Miller, the project’s lead architect, said the final design will look very similar “to what we showed people at the last public meeting.”

“I think it’ll be real interesting. The scale is quite pleasant. It should sit well with the park,” he said.

McMillen, meanwhile, said the library system is beginning its search for the right spot for a temporary branch location on Vashon. Administrators, however, won’t contact property owners until they have a solid timeline for construction in place, she said.

And while the right spot may not be found, McMillen said she’s optimistic.

“I really think there are many possibilities and that something will come through,” she said.

Those with suggestions for a temporary site should contact Kay Johnson at (425) 369-3301 or kayjohn@kcls.org.

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