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A spacious, high-tech library is unveiled

Julie Brand, interim director of the King County Library System, hands out ribbons to be untied at the library’s opening ceremony last Saturday. Below, library patrons peruse and use the newly remodeled building.  - Jeff Dunnicliff Photo
Julie Brand, interim director of the King County Library System, hands out ribbons to be untied at the library’s opening ceremony last Saturday. Below, library patrons peruse and use the newly remodeled building.
— image credit: Jeff Dunnicliff Photo

By NATALIE MARTIN

Hundreds of islanders flocked to the Vashon Library on Saturday, getting a first look at the newly renovated library, complete with large banks of windows, expanded spaces for meeting and working and features to appeal to those who have left the printed word behind for electronic devices.

At a ceremony on Saturday morning, community leaders, including State Sen. Sharon Nelson, as well as officials with the King County Library System (KCLS), said a few words before a large ribbon was untied — not cut — and the doors to the new library were opened.

“It was just packed,” said Jan Riley, who heads the local branch.

The renovation, which has been in the works for years, was made possible by a $172 million bond King County voters approved in 2004 to build and modernize libraries around the county. The $6 million Vashon Library remodel expanded the building at Ober Park from 6,000 square feet to 10,000 square feet. The new library has more space for perusing bookshelves, as well expanded children’s and teen corners, abundant work areas and a large meeting room.

“Pretty much everyone was positive,” Riley said of the opening day at the library. “Most of the people seemed quite pleased.”

Riley said she overheard the most comments about the abundant natural light in the new building, which has floor-to-ceiling windows on the west and north sides that look out on Ober Park. Light monitors atop the roof also bring light in from above, and lighting built into the bookshelves makes up for when it’s not as bright outside.

“Everyone seemed to like the light,” she said.

In a tour of the new building, Riley pointed out that the large front windows are lined with swivel chairs, tables and a cyber bar where outlets are plenty and patrons can work on their laptops or other electronic devices, something she said was “in high demand” at the new library.

“That’s what people want,” she said.

Just steps away is a new touch-screen computer dedicated to ebooks. The computer was donated to the library by OverDrive, the company that KCLS uses to distribute ebooks. By using the OverDrive app, Riley said, readers can download ebooks to their tablets or ereaders there or at home.

“Downloading ebooks is skyrocketing, and it will continue to go that way,” she said.

In the back of the library, a large meeting room is left open as a work space when not in use but can be closed off for meetings or other events. Automatic shades can be drawn over the windows and films or presentations shown on a large projector.

“It’s more inviting,” said Ken Chappelka, who attended the library opening and said he appreciated large, open spaces for meeting and working. “It’s not as dark as the other one,” he added.

Ken’s daughter Ellen, a high school student, said she was glad to hear at the ceremony that the Vashon Library partnered with Vashon Island Fire & Rescue to install a generator at the library, meaning it can be used as a shelter during a widespread power outage or other emergency.

Ellen said she goes to the library about once a week. She called the new building “awesome” and said she’s also simply glad it’s back in its former space at Ober Park. During the yearlong renovation, the library was crammed into temporary digs at the IGA shopping center.

“It will be nice to go to after (lacrosse) practice,” she said. “It’s not out of the way; it’s on my way home.”

Rebecca Graves, who also attended the opening where she sang with the Free Range Folk Choir, said she’s looking forward to taking her new grandchild to the library. The expanded and colorful children’s area overlooks the Ober Park playground and has lots of kid-friendly seating, kids’ computers and bins little ones can take picture books out of.

“I’m anticipating many fun hours with my grandson,” she said.

Equally as exciting, Riley said, is the new teen area, which has shelves dedicated to youth materials as well as a study area near the computer tables.

“I really am happy they’ll have their own space,” she said.

As hundreds of people funneled through library on Saturday, islanders didn’t just look around. At least 50 people signed up for library cards, Riley said, and shelves began to empty, particularly in the children’s section.

“The checkout line was enormous,” she said.

Check out the new library and hear several local authors read from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 2. Participating authors include Delinda McCann, Elizabeth Van Deventer, Jane Valencia, Will North, March Twisdale and Karen Dale. Refreshments will be served.

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