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Liberty Lake Municipal Library needs more space, consultant’s report says

The Liberty Lake Municipal Library has released a consultant’s short- and long-term recommendations for the facility. (Nina Culver / The Spokesman-Review)
The Liberty Lake Municipal Library has released a consultant’s short- and long-term recommendations for the facility. (Nina Culver / The Spokesman-Review)

After a year of gathering data and asking for community input, the Liberty Lake Municipal Library has finished a needs assessment report that, perhaps unsurprisingly, states the library needs more space.

Space has been an issue at the library for years, with the meeting room in demand and the parking lot filling during story times and other events. The library has also taken other steps to free up space, including renting multiple copies of bestsellers when they come out rather than buying them.

Library director Jocelyn Redel said a consultant the city hired evaluated the library’s current size using three different methods. “According to those methods, it looks like we should have a larger facility,” she said.

The library currently has 9,612 square feet at its disposal, including storage space at its building at 23123 E. Mission Ave. The consultants recommended a size of 15,600 to 18,000 square feet. “That’s for our build-out population, which we estimate at about 18,000,” she said.

At Liberty Lake’s current size, the library should be 11,681 square feet, the report states. “Currently we’re slightly smaller than would be optimal,” Redel said.

During the information gathering phase, focus groups attracted a total of 72 people. “With a population of 11,000, that’s actually pretty good,” she said.

The library also collected 479 online surveys, 359 of which came from residents inside the Liberty Lake city limits. “It gave us a lot of information,” she said.

Many people said they thought the library was too small. In general, people said they liked the children’s programs, though some said it’s hard to maneuver strollers inside.

“We do a really good job with our youth programs,” Redel said. “What we can really improve on is our programming for adults.”

While some people come to the library to do research, read or work, others come for the programs. When compared to similar libraries in Washington state, the Liberty Lake Library stood out for the programs it offers.

“It said that overall, programming is 16% of our library visits, and the average is 9%,” she said. “I thought we were doing well, but it’s nice to see it statistically.”

The report makes several short- and long-term recommendations, including reducing the size of some collections. The report showed that adult fiction, nonfiction and biographies don’t circulate well, Redel said.

“The collection that checks out the most for us is our picture books,” she said.

Other hot ticket items are the “most wanted,” best sellers in the library’s browsing collection, which cannot be reserved. When books first come out, people reserving them can create an issue of unavailability, Redel said.

“When things are really big, there can be enormous hold lists,” she said.

The report also makes several recommendations for what to add in a new or expanded library, including more meeting rooms, small study rooms, more space for youth, more seating and reading spaces, and a quiet area for people to work.

Redel said a lot of work must be done before there can be any firm plans to enlarge or relocate the library. She said she’d like to do a feasibility study and also identify possible funding sources, including state funding or a capital campaign.

“For a new library building, we’d have to look at a bond measure,” she said. “I think there’s going to be some options out there.”

But Redel said the impetus for any library project has to come from the community.

“I’m looking at this as a first step,” she said. “Our next step is to present the report to everybody.”

The full report is available on the library’s website, 435/Library.

Redel said the information contained in the report will provide important data to back up any future decisions. She said she expects to discuss the report with the library board members in depth before making any plans to move forward.

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