When the Spokane Public Library’s downtown branch reopens in 2022, patrons will still be able to check out a book. But they’ll be able to do so with an espresso in hand. Maybe even after editing a movie or cutting a track in the recording studio.
City leaders gathered at the downtown library on Friday to celebrate its looming transformation into a modern community pillar that melds the offerings of a traditional public library with future-focused amenities.
The downtown branch is officially expected to close for its two-year remodel on Feb. 29. It will be closed until early 2022 while it undergoes an expansive renovation expected to transform its use of space.
Although it was built less than 30 years ago, officials saw an opportunity at the three-story downtown building to modernize its layout for the 21st century library patron. That includes opening up the first floor, most of which is currently dedicated to staff offices, and offering options like a cafe and computer lab.
The cafe will be operated by New Leaf Bakery, which purposefully hires women who face barriers to traditional employment. Community radio station KYRS will have studio space at the renovated library.
Spokane City Councilwoman Kate Burke, a KYRS board member, said the station reached out to the library and was welcomed aboard.
“We’re so thrilled and excited to join this effort, join this library, and work together to make a place that’s safe for everyone (with) fun and educational opportunities,” Burke said.
The library’s second floor will be redesigned to feature an upgraded children’s space, while the third floor will house the new Northwest Room, a collection of local and regional history, and other offerings.
“While the library is adding and reimagining library services for the 21st century, it also will still be the place where you can discover your next favorite read or just relax with a good book,” said Mary Starkey, chairwoman of the library’s board of trustees.
Mayor Nadine Woodward lauded the library’s leadership for embracing change.
“This place will be where people can engage, where they can learn,” Woodward said. “It’s not just about checking out books anymore.”
Councilwoman Lori Kinnear said libraries seem “almost impossible” in today’s world, containing multitudes of information and history “all for free.”
“Not $8.99 per month, not $1.99 per download, free for everyone who has an interest or motivation to learn,” Kinnear said.
While the downtown building is closed, the library will open a temporary location on the second floor of the Spokane Transit Authority Plaza.
The temporary branch will not feature the diverse offerings of the 117,000-square-foot building it’s replacing, but will be a place for patrons to pick up books that were placed on hold. It also will have a limited number of computers, a public meeting space, books and movies.
The downtown project is one of several funded by the $77 million bond approved by Spokane voters in 2018.
The downtown branch is the second to close for renovations in recent months.
In December, the Shadle branch closed while it undergoes a renovation that will nearly double its footprint. It is expected to be closed through 2021. In the meantime, the library has opened a temporary branch with pared-down offerings at NorthTown Mall.
The bond will pay for the renovation of four library branches and construction of three new buildings. Like the downtown and Shadle branches, the Indian Trail and South Hill branches are slated for a remodel. New libraries will be built in Hillyard, in East Central and adjacent to the Libby Center, a former junior high school that houses multiple Spokane Public Schools programs in the East Central Neighborhood.
On Friday, Spokane Public Library Executive Director Andrew Chanse thanked voters for their support of the project.
“We’re really, really lucky to live in a community that understands the importance of libraries for the future,” Chanse said.
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