By Debra Smith Herald Writer
EVERETT — It’s a normal Monday at the south Everett library, and the place is hopping.
Adults fill all the Internet computer stations. Children poke through the stacks in their corner. Business is brisk at the checkout counter.
The south Everett branch of the library is busting its bindings.
“If the library is the living room of the community, this one is quite crammed with books,” said branch manager Brad Allen. “We don’t have a lot of space.”
Built in 1989, the building, known as the Evergreen Branch, was a satellite site one-sixth the size of the main branch downtown.
Then, the entire population of Everett was 70,000. Now, roughly that many people live south of 41st Street.
As south Everett has swelled, so too has use of the branch. Last year, the Evergreen Branch handled a third of the library system’s total circulation.
Everett public libraries serve people who live in the city. The library system cost taxpayers $5 million last year.
The size of the branch has forced library staff to make some tough choices about how to best use resources, Allen said. Should they remove books in the children’s section so kids have a place to sit for story time? How could they squeeze in more tables for adults to read and study?
Meeting rooms and computers with Internet access at both libraries are in short supply and high demand, said Eileen Simmons, Everett library director. Many employers now only accept job applications online, and the library is the only place many can get access.
At the Evergreen Branch, the children’s area — an essential place for early learning — is too small, she said. And there’s another problem no one could have anticipated in 1989: There aren’t enough electrical outlets for people who want to plug in their own laptops.
It’s hard to know how south Everett has changed. Accurate demographic information won’t be available until the 2010 census is completed. Library staff said anecdotally they’ve seen greater diversity in the people they serve, particularly in the last few years.
“There are lots of Spanish speakers, people from the Middle East, Pakistanis, Indians, Vietnamese,” Allen said.
Many of those folks are seeking resources to learn English or find jobs, particularly since the economy bombed, he said.
A visit to the Evergreen branch jibes with that observation.
Take Israel Guzman; he sat at a table on a recent weekday poring over a carpentry book.
English is his second language. He’s lived in Everett two years and works at a shop that makes trophies, he said. He’s considering a different job, maybe one in construction.
Across the library in the children’s section, Raquel Garzon is here with her husband and two teenage sons. They’re off in the stacks somewhere, searching for books and movies to check out. Her family visits the library once a week.
She comes for books that help her practice her English. She and her husband immigrated to the U.S. in 1991 and moved to Everett in 2008. Now she’s searching for a job.
“I like the library,” she said. “It’s a very nice place — quiet. It’s good for the boys.”
An expansion isn’t planned for the immediate future.
The city curtailed or put off some projects with the recession. One of them was a self-check system that would help library staff manage more efficiently, Simmons said. Most other library systems already use similar systems, which allow patrons to check out their own materials.
For several years, officials have recognized an expansion of the Evergreen Branch is needed, city spokeswoman Kate Reardon said. The city estimates adding 4,000-square-feet would cost about $1 million.
The idea never made it to the top of the city’s capital project lists, she said.
Instead, the city is spending taxpayer money on a remodel of the city’s municipal court and the Riverfront project, a private-public development of shops and homes planned by the Snohomish River.
The city also committed as much as $1.9 million to remodel a city-owned building that will be leased to a theater group.
The city did paint and replace carpet at the Evergreen branch four years ago and overhaul the library’s computer system in 2005. A private matching grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation will allow the library system to add more computers to both branches.
For now, library staff will make do, Simmons said. The library has enjoyed an amicable relationship with the city, and she’s pleased city leaders have managed to weather the recession without cutting staff.
“It’s a very busy branch,” she said. “We recognize the city has real economic concerns to manage. We’ve had no service cutbacks. That’s important.”
Debra Smith: 425-339-3197; firstname.lastname@example.org.