Library services have a long history in Aberdeen dating back over a century. As with anything in history, aspects must continue to change and adapt with the times. In order to match 21st century style, technology and functionality, the Aberdeen Timberland Library will soon experience a major remodel to better serve the community while still retaining the history that runs deep in the city.
Rewind to 1890 and you’ll uncover the first example of library services in the city of Aberdeen after a donation of 150 books was housed in what was then, Oddfellow Hall. After moving in 1891 to a reading room donated by Jacob Weatherwax, the library resided there until a city ordinance incorporated the library in 1902. On the site of the current library sat the Carnegie building, erected in 1908, and resided until the current building was constructed in 1966. After many decades in the over 17,000-square-foot space, a large renovation updated the building to welcome in the new century of 2000. After over 20 years, the staff is excited to further transform the space into something that meets the needs of every age and lifestyle in Grays Harbor.
Planning for the extensive remodel began in 2019 which was quickly followed by the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020. Although a major pause was put on planning, the library staff persevered and used the time to transition into transferring resources into the digital era. While this change took place, staff members were greeted with the opportunity to evaluate the current needs of the community to better understand what the remodel should include. This included a growing need for online library services, an increase in digital collections, and developing ways to serve the communities for whom a reliable internet connection is inaccessible. The temporary pause also allowed for time to process the design more deeply to meet future needs for spatial distance, cleanliness and safety.
The overall desire of the remodel is to reconnect the current and future generations of the City of Aberdeen to their library. “We want to ensure our community is reflected in the wants and needs of the library,” states Stephenie Reece, library manager for Aberdeen Timberland Library. “Our efforts began by reflecting and noticing who our visitors are. Through this, we found that one of the main goals of this redesign is to create a space that welcomes everyone to a vibrant world of possibilities, evolves to meet the needs and values of the community, provides for the safety and security of library staff and visitors, and becomes a highly active, multi-use, inclusive and equitable environment for the community.” Additionally, Reece mentions how they’re aiming to maximize the capacity of the building while producing a space that people want to come to.
To ensure that everyone’s voice is heard, community conversations are an essential part of the planning design process. “Our Community Input Project serves as our way of gathering input on the remodel plans and the future of library services for the Aberdeen community. It’s important for us to hear from patrons while we’re currently in the design phase so that we can make the space as functional as possible while still retaining the signature Aberdeen look and feel. If you’re interested in providing your thoughts, we encourage you to contact us at any time.”
As it currently stands, the vision for the first floor will begin with an immediate view through the front doors into a vibrant and productive area. This space will be best used for business and play complete with more efficient self-service areas, improved breakrooms for staff members, areas appropriate for all age groups, restrooms, and more.
The new second floor area will welcome guests into a peaceful and industrious space carefully created for connection, participation and discovery. Current plans include adding an additional 2,500-square-feet of space so there will be ample room to read, recharge and rejuvenate. There will be a new SKILLS Learning Lab to promote the discovery of new and surprising abilities, multiple adult reading areas, new furniture to maximize comfort and productivity, free meeting rooms with the opportunity to accommodate up to 60 guests, charging stations and many other features.
While the remodel will begin in early 2022 and is estimated to span six to nine months, the staff are looking for temporary locations in downtown Aberdeen. “Of course, we’ll have to scale down services a bit while in the temporary space,” explains Reece. “We’re planning to continue offering access to about half a dozen computers, a mini library of books, and other services the community relies on. The pandemic has helped us realize that it’s possible to scale down and meet the community’s needs online and in a smaller space.”
One very special feature that will remain in the library is the beloved owl statue that sits front and center greeting visitors as they enter. The artist who conceived the statue was a renowned sculptor from Rome, Italy named Beniamino Bufano. For over 50 years, loving hands have patted his head upon arrival and it’s important to Reece that he remains in the library for many more decades to come (he’s already had the honor of being added into the Aberdeen library’s remodel logo). A full story of the owl’s interesting history can be requested from the library.
“Overall,” states Reece, “I’m most excited to bring people back into the library once the renovation is complete. It will be a very proud moment for Aberdeen history and the development of downtown.”
For updates and more information visit the Aberdeen Timberland Library website, Facebook page or their extensive remodel plan. Additionally, comments or questions can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or answered at 360.533.2360.