By Cameron Rasmusson
The Sandpoint branch of the East Bonner County Library District is going to get a whole lot bigger.
Library officials announced this week that a $3 million renovation project is on track to begin construction in late spring of next year. Until then, project planners will focus on gathering community input and feedback on most-requested new features or services.
“We do have ideas about what we want to do with the space, but what we’re really waiting on is public feedback,” said Marcy Timblin, library public relations director.
The expansion will add 10,000 square feet onto the 30,000 square feet of the existing library building. That will come in the form of a two-story addition to the southeast and a one-story addition in the northwest end. A neighboring property on Cedar Street purchased in 2014 will likely be used for parking and green space.
While the original library facility was built in 2000 through a bond, library officials plan to avoid that route this time. According to Timblin, officials have put together a strategic plan to raise money through fundraising, existing budgetary funds, grants and more.
“We want to do this in a real grass roots kind of way,” said Timblin.
The expansion is part of a nationwide movement to redefine the signature features of a community library. One role libraries have helped popularize in recent years is the establishment of makerspaces, which give creative individuals access to specialized supplies and equipment like 3D printers.
“These trends were just beginning to emerge 16 years ago when this building was constructed,” said library director Ann Nichols in a press release. “Today, our makerspace programs and community development initiatives have reached capacity in the physical space we have. Our social spaces are encroaching on our quiet spaces, and our professional meeting rooms are being shared with our makerspace programs.”
Building off a successful partnership on the Clark Fork branch library building, library officials have hired Architects West Inc. of Coeur d’Alene due to its expertise in library design, Nichols said. In the months to come, Architects West will work with the city of Sandpoint to get the project approved and then begin to draft a design. Initial designs will likely be ready by the summer, and if all proceeds according to plan, the library will open the bid for the construction contract in the spring of next year.
“We have already scheduled focus groups to steer the project design in the direction that will be most beneficial for Bonner County residents,” said Nichols. “This will be an ongoing process during the design phase.
The team also welcomes informal suggestions and feedback. According to Timblin, library staff members are committed to keeping the public informed of project progress every step of the way.