Nearly $6,000 raised toward $15,000 matching grant from benefactors

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: ERIC SQUIRES - Enraptured children listen to storybook tales read to them during the grand opening celebration for the new Aloha Community Library at 17455 S.W. Farmington Road. Children dressed up as their favorite characters for an earlier parade from the old facility to the larger space to the east. At the rate Eric Squires and Douglas Hoy are going, they could start a consulting business specializing in opening community libraries.

The Aloha Community Library Board of Directors members were on hand Saturday morning to open the library — for the second time in less than two years — among plenty of fanfare, including a children’s parade, storytelling and words from local dignitaries.

Granted, the library only moved the length of a football field, from a smaller space west of the Bales Thriftway Market to a larger space on the eastern end of the shopping center at 17455 S.W. Farmington Road. But as far as its guiding lights and enthused patrons are concerned, a new library is worth celebrating regardless of how short the move.

“There’s been a lot of pent-up pressure in the community for this need,” Squires said, as patrons mingled among the shelves, tables and gathering areas in the new 1,925-square-foot space. “It’s been a lot of work, but not uphill work because the community has been so supportive.”

Festivities started at 10 a.m. with a storybook character parade from the “old” library — which opened in September 2012 — to the new one. The brief, but spirited parade was followed by children’s story time and words from local dignitaries including Washington County Commissioner Dick Schouten and Eva Calcagno, director of Washington County Cooperative Library Services.

The previous night, award-winning storyteller Olga Loya presented “Let’s Work Together” in the former Blockbuster Video building near the library, sharing myths, legends and personal stories from around the world.

On Friday and Sunday, Westside Christian High School student Nathan Longacre performed a four-scene play at the Edwards/Aloha Community Center based on iconic scenes from William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” “King Lear” and “Romeo and Juliet.” Proceeds were split between the Aloha Community Library Association and the nonprofit Edwards Center, dedicated to providing assistance to adults with disabilities.

Solid down payment

Hoy, the Aloha library board’s chairman, said the array of events reflects the community’s growing appreciation of the library, which submitted an application this week to become part of the Washington County system.

“It all went pretty well,” he said of the Friday events. “We have so many great resources, and they all came together.”

Those include financial resources. Thanking patrons and 50 or so volunteers for their help and support, he announced that $5,985 had already been donated toward a $15,000 Challenge Grant from two San Francisco-area benefactors.

“If we can raise an equal match through private donations, we’ll receive $15,000,” he explained. “This is a big step. We’re on our way.”

Although the new space falls short of a Pew Research Center study calling for at least 1 square foot of library space for each community resident, Hoy said it provides greater flexibility for meeting space and children’s activities.

“It’s a multi-purpose space that’s much more conducive to public gathering,” he said, noting four bookshelves with casters allow for space to be adjusted as needed. “We only had two before. Now we have four.”

Onward and upward

Aloha resident Rebecca Healy brought her children, Victor, 11, Andrew, 6, and Emma, 8, to the grand opening celebration to see what the new space had to offer her family.

“I like how it’s set up. It’s really nice,” she said. “I like the community feel in here, and you don’t get lost.”

Emma, a student at Aloha Huber Park K-8 School, said she can see herself visiting the library after school “quite often.”

“It’s pretty cool,” she said.

Calcagno, who supports the Aloha center’s efforts to join the county’s 17-library system, noted enthusiasm from the community indicates how much a local learning and gathering center is valued.

“This is exciting, and they’ll likely outgrow it — probably by Tuesday,” she quipped. “It’s wonderful to see the level of community support for this in Aloha.”

Schouten praised the library board’s “laser-like” focus in establishing the facility and generating momentum for fundraising.

“This is an amazing thing, and it’s great to be a part of it,” he said, noting he expects the Aloha library to be part of the county system by 2016. “I’m confident Eva will see it through ... We’re going to have great days ahead of us.”

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