Sno-Libraries seeks input on Draft Capital Facilities Plan

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Sno-Isle Libraries is a tax-supported library district serving Snohomish and Island counties. The mission is to be a community doorway to reading, resources and lifelong learning, and a center for people, ideas and culture. Policy is set by a seven-member Board of Trustees appointed by the Snohomish County Council and Island County Board of Commissioners.

Sno-Isle Libraries provides a network of public library services to more than 713,000 residents across approximately 2,200 square miles. The population within the library district is projected to increase by 14 percent by 2025, with some areas growing at a much higher rate.

Library services and materials are delivered through 21 facilities in 21 cities, towns and communities; through mobile library services and online. Eight of the 21 community libraries are owned by the library district. The library district owns the Service Center, an administrative and distribution facility in Marysville which supports library operations across the district. Twelve facilities are owned and maintained by individual cities and towns. One facility is owned by a local Friends of the Library group.

Sno-Isle Libraries is planning how its facilities will meet the changing needs of communities and customers now and in the future.

A Draft Capital Facilities Plan available now for review includes proposed recommendations for all 21 of the libraries across the library district plus the service center in Marysville. The draft plan recommendations are informed by work that began in the fall of 2015 by library-district officials and consultants and included an extensive public input campaign

Before finalizing a plan, Sno-Isle Libraries officials are checking with communities to see if they got it right.

“We’re taking a fresh look at our facilities and how our customers and communities are using them,” Executive Director Jonalyn Woolf-Ivory said. “We listened to our communities, customers and partners. We looked at how customers have been using their libraries, as well as national trends in libraries and technology.

“We think we’ve got a plan that can guide our decisions over the next 10 years, but we want to ask for feedback before moving ahead.”

The draft plan is posted online at www.sno-isle.org/facplan along with a link to an online survey that is open for public comment. The survey is open through June 3. In addition, each library will have information about the draft plan for review and library-district staff are taking the information to city councils, community groups and other public gatherings.

The draft plan includes recommendations to add services in three areas that currently have inadequate library service, including the Lakewood/Smokey Point area, the 128th Street area southeast of Paine Field and west of I-5 and the area east and south of the current Mill Creek Library.

Three current libraries are identified for replacement with larger facilities in Lake Stevens, Stanwood and Lynnwood. Renovation and/or expansion is proposed for the current libraries in Arlington and Mill Creek. The rest of the libraries in the district plus the service center, 14 facilities in all, are identified in the draft plan as able to meet current and predicted demands.

“As population and use has grown, some of our libraries are now undersized for their service areas. The need for new buildings is already being discussed in cities such as Lake Stevens and Mill Creek,” Director of Facilities Jeanne Crisp said. “In other places, remodels or additions are called for. And, some existing facilities as well as our newer libraries are well-suited for their communities -so we don’t anticipate any substantive changes in the next 10 years.”

Population growth is adding fuel to the need for new or expanded libraries in growing areas, Crisp said.

“Some areas of the library district are among the fastest growing in the U.S.,” Crisp said. “In some cases, that growth is coming to formerly rural areas. In others, unincorporated suburban areas are filling in as well as cities seeing significant growth.”

Besides the sheer number of people to serve, Sno-Isle Libraries and libraries across the country are seeing changes in how customers use services and the buildings which provide them. To help inform the capital facilities plan, plan, library project staff worked with design consultant Margaret Sullivan Studios to take a big-picture look at the future of library facilities. The idea is to create conditions that facilitate library activities that are timeless, even though technologies may change.

For example, Crisp said, many customers want access to computers, printers, wi-fi, maker-spaces and other technology. Meeting and study spaces are in increasing demand as well as small-business support centers. Also, while print books and DVDs are the most used materials, the popularity of downloadable items such as eBooks, audiobooks and movies is rapidly growing.

“This is a plan for our facilities, but it also aligns with our Strategic Plan which guides the services, programs and strategic priorities of the library district,” she said.

Crisp said the survey results will be compiled with the assistance of the Seattle-based consulting firm, EnviroIssues. “They helped with the outreach effort last fall and we’re fortunate to have them assist this time, too,” Crisp said.

Once all of the feedback is gathered and reviewed, library-district officials will determine if adjustments to the draft plan are needed. The goal is approval and adoption by the Sno-Isle Libraries Board of Trustees in mid- to late summer.