Plan calls for more libraries in Snohomish, Island counties

EVERETT — More than 6,000 comments later, Sno-Isle Libraries has its marching orders.

The board of trustees of the regional 21-library system adopted a plan early this week that calls for building new libraries and expanding, renovating and maintaining older ones. The 10-year plan is largely a statement of library building needs with no guarantee there’ll be the money to do the work.

Yet the document underscores the demand for library services. It calls for replacing the Arlington, Lake Stevens and Stanwood libraries deemed too small to meet current needs let alone anticipated growth. Mill Creek is identified for renovation.

Then there are the communities that have no library at all where people are making their pitch to get a building of their own.

Peggy Nystrom knows something about that.

She’s a retired Mukilteo School District librarian who worked at elementary, middle and high schools in the district’s east end.

She recently handed over a petition with 1,345 signatures of people eager for a library in the 128th Street and Mariner High School area. It’s an unincorporated swath south of Everett city limits where 30,000 people live.

Many people were involved in gathering the signatures, Nystrom said.

“There are a lot of disadvantaged, but a lot of good-hearted people living in the area,” Nystrom said.

Many have young children.

After retirement, Nystrom filled in for a short time at the Harbour Pointe Middle School library in the west end of the Mukilteo district. She’d watch students from Columbia Elementary, Harbour Pointe Middle and Kamiak High School migrate from their campuses to the library when school let out.

She’d like to see students from the likes of Discovery Elementary, Voyager Middle and Mariner High have the same opportunity.

In June, Mukilteo school’s Superintendent Marci Larsen and school board president Judy Schwab wrote a letter to Sno-Isle supporting a library near Mariner.

“We believe this is a need that is long overdue and is something that the community will find very valuable,” they wrote.

The Mariner area is very much on Sno-Isle’s radar.

Ten years ago, Nystrom and others submitted a similar petition — one with 1,274 signatures.

“…Our families need and deserve a public library now,” Nystrom wrote in a letter at that time.

Since then, Sno-Isle has sent a library services truck to the area and it is well used, said Ken Harvey, a library district spokesman. Momentum to get a permanent library built fell by the wayside when the recession hit.

Sno-Isle’s 10-year plan calls for adding what’s called a “library demonstration project” in the Mariner area early in 2017. That could mean a library in leased space staffed with Sno-Isle librarians. The library system is looking for donors and foundations to help with leasing costs.

“I’m just pleased that there is progress,” Nystrom said. “I think they deserve the benefits you get from a public library.”

Mariner isn’t the only area Sno-Isle is studying for a new library.

The 10-year plan also calls for a second demonstration project in the Lakewood-Smokey Point area, where significant growth in expected. The goal is to make that happen by late 2017.

The plan also identified a new library for what it terms the greater Mill Creek area.

The existing Mill Creek library is deemed too small for future growth. Based on community feedback, the idea would be to keep the existing library and add a new one. Sno-Isle received more than 2,100 responses from Mill Creek and neighboring areas when it asked for feedback for its 10-year plan.

Sno-Isle isn’t in the library-building business. That is up to the communities that want them. Library construction generally is paid for by capital bonds, which must be approved by taxpayers. The 10-year plan lays out the needs, but doesn’t include a timeline for construction or costs.

“These communities told us they want new libraries and we’re working with them to determine the best way forward,” said Sno-Isle Executive Director Jonalyn Woolf-Ivory.

Sno-Isle serves a 2,200 square mile area with a population of 728,000, which is projected to grow by 14 percent by 2025.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; stevick@heraldnet.com.

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