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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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North Spokane Library remodel creates ‘community responsive space’

In the North Spokane Library’s new lab room, from left, Jack Penders, 11, his sister, Maggie Penders, 9, and Hailey Crone, 8, learn how to program a Finch robot, Tuesday, June 6, 2017. The Lab is devoted to engaging, hands-on learning opportunities. This space showcases local experts, artists and enthusiasts who share their crafts and talents with the community. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
In the North Spokane Library’s new lab room, from left, Jack Penders, 11, his sister, Maggie Penders, 9, and Hailey Crone, 8, learn how to program a Finch robot, Tuesday, June 6, 2017. The Lab is devoted to engaging, hands-on learning opportunities. This space showcases local experts, artists and enthusiasts who share their crafts and talents with the community. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Finches fluttered in The Lab at the North Spokane library last week, but these birds didn’t fly. That’s because they were Finch Robots operated by kids who were learning basic computer coding during a free class offered at the library.

“Is it robot time?” asked Vincent Duong, as he entered room. “What age do you have to be?”

When librarian Amber Williams told him the activity was for kids 8 years old and and up, he beamed.

“Yes!” he shouted, pumping his fist in the air. “I made it!”

Vincent is 8. His mother, Kathy Duong, had brought her three sons to the library for the program.

The Lab is part of an approximately $470,000 remodel of the North Spokane Library.

“The idea was to expand our space without expanding our walls,” said Williams. “We recaptured staff space for public use.”

That space includes The Lab – a glass-walled room that formerly housed the staff break room. The space is now devoted to hands-on learning opportunities for kids and adults, and will provide a showcase for local experts, artists and enthusiasts to share their crafts and talents. The Lab and its programs are supported, in part, by a grant from the Washington State Library.

Before the remodeling project began, Williams said she asked herself, “What gift could I give to a future me ten years down the road? The answer was a blank slate.”

She smiled as she watched the group of engaged kids, entering prompts into eight new laptop computers. Three large wall-mounted television screens connect with the laptops, so the kids could follow along as library employee Erin Haight gave them step-by-step instructions.

“I don’t know much about programming, but I know someone who does,” said Maggie Penders, (“I’m 9. I’m just short.”) pointing to her brother, Jack.

Cheers went up as the Finch Robots’ beaks began to light up, and soon the robots were moving back and forth on the floor.

“Success!” shouted Vincent Duong.

The Lab isn’t just for kids. A host of gardening, home repair and DIY classes for adults will be offered throughout the summer.

“This is a community responsive space,” said Williams.

Other improvements made to the branch built in 1972, include new carpet and paint throughout, an additional meeting room and another self-checkout space.

The children’s area has been enlarged and the big check-out desk has been replaced with a small kiosk. New upholstered chairs are sprinkled throughout the building, offering plenty of spots for folks to sit and relax.

“There’s a lot of usable program space,” Williams said.

Small library at Valley Mall

The remodeled North Spokane branch isn’t the only thing that’s new for Spokane County Library District. The Bookend recently opened at the Spokane Valley Mall.

Located on the second floor, next to Macy’s, the District has dubbed The Bookend a “boutique” library.

“It’s a smaller library with a retail-like feel,” said Jane Baker, SCLD’s communication and development officer. “Of course we’re not selling anything, as always checking out materials is free, but you will see more focus on popular materials such as best sellers, DVDs, and popular magazines. While this location does not replace our desire to build a new Spokane Valley Library, the population growth does warrant another library location in the Valley.”

The Bookend doesn’t offer storytime or library programs, but there is a castle for kids to play in, as well as a couple of computer stations.

Both North Spokane and the Bookend will be hosting open houses on Saturday and the public is invited to peruse the new facilities.

Williams believes these improvements reflect the purpose of public libraries.

“Libraries have always been a place where communities gather their resources,” she said. “It started out with books, and now it includes videos, computers, robots and software.”

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