Library celebrates 10 years on Maple Avenue
SNOHOMISH - The Snohomish Library may be celebrating 10 years in its current location, but the library has been a center of knowledge, art and culture for the city for almost 150 years.
The current building that houses thousands of books, DVDs, almost 50 computers and dozens of decades-old newspapers is a work of art in and of itself, head librarian Rebecca Loney said.
When the community began to outgrow the Carnegie Library, voters approved a bond to build a new library building. Voters approved an $8 million levy, Loney said, because Snohomish residents recognized the importance of a library in the community.
The Friends of the Snohomish Library in addition raised more than $40,000 to hire local artists to create four pieces of art to integrate into the new library.
Art is a big part of the library.
When you enter the building, you’re actually grasping a valuable piece of public art. The door’s handles are made out of intricate Japanese metalwork with several significant dates etched into them. One date is 1910, the year the library’s previous home at the Carnegie was built.
The benches near the entrance are another piece of public art, Loney said.
“If you look closely, you’ll see that the metal is connected almost like a spider web, and there are letters stamped into them too,” she said. “Those are handmade benches.”
A popular feature of the library, the fireplace, is another work of art.
Beautiful tile work by artist Steve Gardner lines the fireplace, which creates a warm gathering spot that calls to readers as they enter.
Around the corner is the children’s section, which has a bathroom decorated with a beautiful panoramic mural of the sea filled with creatures.
“That’s what public art is all about,” Loney said, “finding it in unexpected places. Friends of the Library really did a good job of recognizing the need for public art and incorporating it into the community.”
Everett librarian and Northwest historian David Dilgard, who works downriver from Snohomish, said people have nice things to say about Snohomish’s library.
“What you have here is a brand-new building that everyone has taken to their hearts,” Dilgard said. “The people who designed it and make it work on a daily basis ... it’s quite a wonderful asset.”
The library’s design leaves an impression on visitors who come from as far away as Seattle and beyond.
The library received national attention in 2008 when National Public Radio frequent guest librarian Nancy Pearl selected the Snohomish Library as one of the top 10 in the country.
“It shows that the community has such an important place for readers, and it’s important for that cultural core to exist in such a beautiful area,” Dilgard said.
Dilgard has worked in the Northwest History Room at the Everett library for 36 years.
The city of Snohomish, he said, has always been a great source of stories about the early history of Snohomish County.
There has always been a cultural subcurrent in Snohomish, Dilgard said.
“The town itself has been a leader for providing for the needs of the city in terms of resources and the books that people needed to educate themselves enough to live their lives in a productive manner,” he said.
The first library in the 1870s was merely a collection of books inside the Cathcart Opera House on the corner of First Street and Avenue D, Dilgard said.
“It was a pioneer establishment long before the Sno-Isle Library System was even formed.”
The Snohomish library is a branch of the Sno-Isle Libraries System.
When Washington became a state in 1889, new state laws mandated libraries become organized with a library board and a proper structure to house books.
The books that once lived in the opera house along with historic artifacts, art displays and a theater moved to the brand-new Carnegie building in 1910.
That was where the Snohomish Library lived for more than 100 years, Dilgard said, but the community eventually needed a bigger and better facility to keep up with the demands of a growing city.
In 2003, the books found a new home at 311 Maple Ave.
The new facility is twice the size of the Carnegie building, Loney said, and much more in line with the times in terms of technology and design.
The new facility is 23,000 square feet. And where the library in the Carnegie building only had room for eight computers, the new library has almost 50.
The Carnegie library had seating for maybe a couple dozen readers, Loney said, while the new structure has more than 248 places for people to sit.
“We have a meeting room with a kitchen, whereas before it was in a basement,” Loney said. “And it just wasn’t as pleasant a place as we have now.”
Parking also increased from about a dozen spots to parking for 80 vehicles.
Loney has been the managing librarian in Snohomish for 12 years, and she said she absolutely loves it. She values the fact that the community chose to pay for a lovely structure that she gets to work in every day.
“As a community, we pay to support the existing library and it’s available for everybody,” Loney said. “How cool is that?”
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