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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane Public Library to open temporary downtown branch in STA Plaza

Spokand Transit Authority completed some construction this fall on Sprague Avenue to prepare the STA Plaza for the Central City Line, an articulated bus that will run as the city’s first bus rapid transit line. It’s expected to be complete in the spring of 2022. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

The Spokane Public Library will open a temporary location in the Spokane Transit Authority bus plaza during a two-year renovation of the downtown library.

Improvements to the second floor of the STA plaza will begin in December, with a targeted opening date of March 2, 2020. The downtown library is scheduled to close for its renovation work on Feb. 29, 2020.

After a substantial reduction in footprint – from more than 100,000 square feet to just 9,800 – the temporary branch will offer a reduced collection of books and movies, public meeting space, computers, wireless internet access and office space for staff.

“It’s sort of a micro-experience of the downtown library,” said Andrew Chanse, executive director of the Spokane Public Library.

The STA plaza fit the library’s needs for an affordable, handicap-accessible space in the heart of downtown, according to Amanda Donovan, the library director of marketing and communications. The STA plaza space was an “excellent use of taxpayer funds,” Donovan added. The library will pay the STA for “operational costs,” which are estimated at about $5,000 per month.

Library officials announced earlier this year that the downtown library would be closed for two years while it undergoes extensive renovations aimed at modernizing the building for the 21st century library patron, with new amenities including a cafe, a computer lab and a “collaborative commons” open working space.

“It’s going to be worth the wait, it’s going to be worth that temporary inconvenience, because we’re going to come back bigger and better than ever,” Chanse said.

E. Susan Meyer, the transit authority’s CEO, called the branch a “great temporary use” of the plaza’s second floor.

“There are multiple options for the future of that space, and the library’s need for a short-term location fits well within STA’s timeline to consider what will work best as a part of downtown’s transit center,” Meyer said in a statement.

The STA will add to its security staff when the library opens. The temporary downtown branch will be open 52 hours per week, and an additional security officer – funded by the Spokane Public Library – will be on duty during those hours, according to Brandon Rapez-Betty, STA’s Communications & Customer Service Director

Officials chose to shut down the downtown library rather than attempt to keep sections of it open while work is done piecemeal, arguing that the construction would be safer for patrons, more financially efficient and completed more quickly if the library is completely closed.

“The type of renovation we’re doing here is pretty extreme. We’re cutting a hole in the second floor to create a new staircase – we’re changing up so much about this facility that it didn’t seem like a great idea to keep it open from a safety perspective,” Chanse said.

The STA plaza offers the library a space that is connected to public transit and can be accessed by the skywalk, a benefit during inclement weather. The space is currently vacant and was left out of a 2017 renovation of the plaza, leaving its long-term future uncertain.

“STA is on the cusp of a master facilities update plan that will happen in 2020 and will answer that question,” Rapez-Betty said. “The library, as a temporary lease, was kind of a perfect fit.”

Chanse said the library was “honored to be there.”

“We get to use an underutilized space and we get to activate it for Spokane Transit and help the STA show what the potential of that space could be for the community,” Chanse said.

Mayor-elect Nadine Woodward had hoped to use the STA plaza as the location for a new downtown police precinct. Both she and the two members of the Spokane City Council who represent downtown – Councilwoman Lori Kinnear and Councilman Breean Beggs – have advocated the city relocate its downtown precinct from the intermodal center into the core of downtown.

“I’d rather see a precinct there, to be honest, but the library needs to find a location, too,” Woodward said.

Library officials expect the temporary location to be a place where many patrons who have placed a hold on an item pick it up.

“We’re not going to be able to offer as extensive of a collection, just because of the footprint, so we’ll encourage folks to place holds,” Chanse said.

Still, the temporary downtown branch will still offer story time, limited-time computer access, Wi-Fi and a public meeting room.

The downtown library’s closure will force several of its services to relocate. The Bloomberg Terminal, which provides patrons with access to financial news and information, will be hosted by Eastern Washington University for its business students.

The Eastern Washington Genealogical Society is working to pare down its collection in anticipation of the closure.

The city’s community court operates in the library and aims to direct people accused of low-level nonviolent crimes toward social services and away from the criminal-justice system. It has yet to announce a new location.

Lilac City Live, the library’s monthly late night talk show, will be hosted by Lucky You Lounge.

“We’ll get creative with some of these bigger things that have been popular with the public,” Chanse said.

The renovations to the downtown library are funded by a $77 million bond approved by Spokane voters last November, which will pay for the remodeling of four existing library branches and construction of three new libraries.

The library’s Shadle branch also will close for renovations, beginning Dec. 22. A temporary replacement will open in the NorthTown mall, across from the Blue Zoo Aquarium, on Jan. 2 with a slate of services similar to those planned for the temporary downtown library.

The library system has no plans to lay off staff members during the closures.