By Cameron Rasmusson
The expansion of the East Bonner County Library District Sandpoint branch is making fast progress, with officials soon to announce project contractors.
The bidding application period for the work wrapped up last week, with contractors set to be determined late this month or early in April. With the building design already complete, library officials hope to break ground on the project, branded “Your Library Transformation,” this spring.
“It will get interesting once the groundbreaking starts, but we are a very positive group around here,” said Marcy Timblin, the library public relations director. “We plan to make the best of it and will be staying open during construction.”
Library officials believe the difficulties will be well worth the pay-off. The expansion will transform the library’s children and young adult services.
“Right now, we don’t have much to offer teens in the way of space inside the library,” said Ann Nichols, library director. “When they come here after school, the main place they have to congregate is in the lobby. We are really looking forward to creating space, materials and programs for young people, based on what they have indicated to us that they would value most.”
At 10,000 square feet, the expansion will boast a children’s area, young adult book section, large-print collection and community meeting venue. Following up on the quickly-growing vision of libraries as creative as well as intellectual community hubs, the expansion will grow technological capabilities and improve access to specialized machines like 3D printers in a makerspace center. Finally, the project will include a new reading room, as well as designated quiet zones and social areas, fire suppression systems, increased parking and landscaped green areas.
“We have just completed the design phase, so it has been mostly fun up to this point,” Timblin said. “The architect patiently and brilliantly incorporated as many of our wishes into the plans so that we could provide the necessary design aspects while keeping the project within our budget constraints.”
Financing the massive enhancement required library officials to get creative. While the original facility was built through a bond in 2000, planners will this time corral funds through its existing budget, grants and community fundraising.
According to Timblin, the community has been invaluable in keeping momentum for the project moving forward. Supporters have spread the word and helped ensure that fundraising progresses at a steady clip.
“The community loves the library and knows its value,” Timblin said. “People tell us all the time how fortunate they feel to live in a town that has a library as nice as ours. People also appreciate that the library cannot keep up with the traditional and changing needs of the community as it stands.”
One especially steady flow of support has come from the Rotary Club of Sandpoint. The group is planning a major fundraiser for Saturday, May 6, with support from more than 30 organizations. Dubbed “A Novel Night—A Rotary Gala Benefiting the Sandpoint Library Transformation,” the night features a live and silent auctions, including a one unique twist where local nonprofits donate items that speak to their stories and histories. Celebrated author, editor and publisher Jennifer Leo will make an appearance in addition to plenty of entertainment and catering by Tango Cafe. Attendees themselves will contribute to the fun, as they’re encouraged to dress as their favorite literary character. Tickets and sponsor information are available at NovelNightGala.org.
“The Rotary Club of Sandpoint is pleased to be working with the library on planning and hosting this event. It is thrilling to see so many people coming out to have a part in supporting the event and the library,” said Dyno Wahl, club president. “We chose this project for our big fundraiser this year because it aligns perfectly with our mission to serve others and our local focus on literacy and youth.”
Supporters can also contribute by benefiting the library during Idaho Gives, a statewide fundraising effort on May 4. All it all, Timblin believes it adds up to an effort the community can believe in.
“[We hope] that people realize their personal and community potential through the many resources available from the library,” Timblin said. “We hope that when the project is complete, people will see their names and those of the people, organizations and businesses who have supported it all over the library and they will know that it truly was built by our community, one brick at a time.”
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