Expanded hours, circulation will help goal of joining library system

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Aloha Library volunteers Florence Zeller, left, and Susan Jaeger help a guest at their Farmington Road location. The library plans on moving this spring to a larger storefront in the same shopping center.Since opening its doors in September 2012, the Aloha Community Library quietly, yet quickly established itself as an integral element in a section of Washington County not exactly known for its rich tapestry of community facilities.

Fifteen months later, the library finds itself at a pivotal point in its evolution with a new, larger space to move into this spring while progressing toward the facility joining Washington County Cooperative Library Services.

From its decidedly cozy, 1,250-square-foot space at 17683 S.W. Farmington Road, suite E, just southwest of the Bales Thriftway Marketplace, the library in a few months will move across the parking lot to the recently vacated National Guard recruitment center at 17455 S.W. Farmington Road. The approximately 1,925-square-foot space— representing about a 40 percent size increase — includes a higher ceiling, larger storefront window and plenty of infrastructure to accommodate digital technology stations. Smaller spaces in the back will accommodate a break room, a public restroom and office space for recently named interim Library Director Terri TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Interim Aloha Library Director Terry Palmer, right, talks with volunteer Barbara Scillian as they try to figure out the layout of the library's new location.

“Depending on how we use the space, it could be a lot bigger (for our purposes),” said Doug Hoy, chairman of the library’s board of directors. “It provides a lot of choices as to how we can use our space to our advantage.

“Library design is very complicated,” he noted. “You have to think about a lot of things. With a small space, we’ll want to be flexible.”

The nine-member board worked closely with Bales Findley LLC, the shopping center’s owner, to keep an eye out for a suitable larger space.

“This (new) space came up, and it became more practical for both of us,” Hoy said.

The American Library Association study, which provides an inventory and analysis of the communities’ amenities, shortcomings and future needs, calls for 56,000 square feet of library space. The number is based on 1 square foot per person in the study area, whose approximate population is 56,000.

“Based on that, we’re under serving the area,” Hoy said. “But you can’t grow a 56,000-square-foot library (overnight). Starting small and working slowly (provides) a more effective way to build.”

The move — which with the help of many volunteers could be completed by April or May — will make it easier for the library to meet criteria for inclusion in the 17-library Washington County Cooperative Library Services system. The library will need to increase its weekly hours of operation from 37 to 40 and its monthly circulation from around the current 2,000 items per month to about 3,330 for a total of 40,000 annually.

“It needs an assessment to make sure our staffing is at a good level at the new place,” Hoy said. “We’re still working on that. We staff with two people every hour for 37 hours. We might need to increase that with the larger space.”

The library will submit its application to the system by May 1 in hopes of gaining membership in time for the 2015-16 fiscal year budget cycle.

To get the doors opened, the board and volunteers raised close to $40,000 from private donations. They raised close to $60,000 in fiscal year 2012-13, and seek to raise $100,000 in the 2013-14 fiscal year.

With Palmer, the library’s sole paid staff member, leading day-to-day operations, including volunteer coordination, Hoy is confident the new facility can easily reach the goals the WCCLS requires.

“Terri’s been here from the beginning,” Hoy said. “We needed someone to be the library director. By formalizing it this way, we hope it increases the hours she spends here so she can be as effective as she needs to be.”

Palmer, a Beaverton resident who graduated from Aloha High School in 1989, said she enjoys the challenges of keeping a volunteer-based library humming along while preparing to move onward and upward. Her initial role at the library was volunteer coordinator.

“We’ve had challenges, obviously because we’re new, but we’ve worked through them,” she said. “The ability of this group to pull together and work is miraculous some days.”

The plan for the new space is to balance the expansion of media materials and technology-based services such as Internet and computer stations.

“We need to be careful that we don’t overfill that space, because we could do that easily,” she said. “I have some ideas that can keep increasing patron traffic and circulation numbers. We plan to open with new and enticing materials.”

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