The Shadle Park Library opened for the first time in nearly two years this week – and it didn’t take long for word to get out.
Children crawled across the floor of the renovated Spokane Public Library branch’s new play space early Thursday morning while adult patrons gazed up at the building’s vaulted ceilings and bright windows.
The library officially opened on Wednesday after a nearly two-year, $15.5 million renovation project that is part of the Spokane Public Library’s broader effort to modernize, repair and renovate its facilities.
The library’s renovation was one of several funded by the $77 million bond approved by city voters in 2018.
Library officials believed that the branch was undersized given its usage, and embarked on a plan to roughly double its footprint while updating its amenities for the 21st century.
After the bond’s passage, the Shadle Park Library was the first to close for renovation, with a temporary replacement opening in the Northtown Mall. The Northtown Mall spot was popular in the interim, according to library officials, but couldn’t replace all of the services offered at a permanent branch.
The new library isn’t just bigger, but represents a shift in the way it uses space. The renovated building has eight times the meeting space as its predecessor, for example, including amenities like a classroom, large event room and studio space.
Those spaces can be reserved ahead of time using a library card, but they can also easily be booked on the spot if available. A cabinet of laptops is easily accessible and ready to check out.
“What’s so special about what’s happening in the city of Spokane is that our libraries are coming into the 21st century … now they are creative, innovative meeting spaces,” Mayor Nadine Woodward said at a ribbon-cutting event on Wednesday.
The children’s play space is dubbed “Moose’s Market” as a nod to the Inland Northwest.
Of course, plenty of books line the shelves begging to be taken home.
The library will be open with extended “self-service” hours in which the library has limited staffing, but patrons can still do things like check out books and use meeting rooms.
Shadle Park’s iconic green-and-yellow water tower looms over everything, visible through the building’s wide windows.
The renovation project was not derailed by the COVID-19 shutdowns implemented in 2020, nor was work on other branches, according to library officials. The Central branch downtown is still expected to open in early 2022.
Spokane City Councilwoman Candace Mumm noted Wednesday that the city’s libraries are especially vital during events like an ice storm – or a pandemic.
“Especially during COVID, this was the lifeline, being able to read,” Mumm said in front of the renovated branch.
Spokane Public Library Director Andrew Chanse echoed those sentiments.
“We are that place in Spokane where everyone can be connected, they can be curious, they can be informed, they can be safe and they can be welcomed,” Chanse said.
The Indian Trail Library closed for renovations in October. The next libraries to temporarily shutter are the East Side Library on Thursday and the South Hill Library on Nov. 12.
Bookworms need not fear, however. The new Liberty Park Library is set to open on Nov. 12.