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Facility upgrades will allow for expanded hours, which will be determined by volunteer availability

PHOTO COURTESY OF KIT GARDES - Contractors from Happy Hollow LLC work on installing a new sidewalk and walkway next to the Columbia City Community Library. The library is also slated to get new fencing and lighting. Together, the improvements are expected to allow the volunteer-run library to expand hours.The Columbia City Community Library is undergoing a series of facility improvements that will allow the volunteer-run program to expand hours.

Construction of a sidewalk along the back and side of the library was recently completed, and a series of new fencing was installed this week, Kit Gardes, a representative for the Friends of the Columbia City Community Library group, explained.

The library will have a brand new walkway, fencing and lighting installed to improve access to the building.

The library is located on St. Helens School District property and within the Columbia City Elementary School playground area. The elementary school had been shuttered from 2012 to 2017 due to budget shortages. During that time, the gate near the library could be left open during operating hours.

But when the school reopened in 2017, it meant visitors would be required to check in at the school office before proceeding to the library. The volunteers worked with the school district to develop a plan, but that also posed problems.

"When it opened, we talked with them about the safety concerns for the children and decided that it would be difficult for both the school and the library to have it where you have to check in," Gardes explained.

Eventually, the library decided to shift its hours to be open after school on Mondays through Thursdays from 3 to 6 p.m. and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays. Previously the library had been open during daytime hours throughout the week, but the schedule varied. Gardes said the library saw a drop in patrons after the time change two years ago.

The best long-term plan was to create some separation between the two buildings, Gardes explained.

"The goal is that we can segregate the library from the school grounds and make it available to patrons and the community when school is in session," Gardes said.

Funding for the repairs is covered by the Friends of the Columbia City Community Library and is included in the facilities and maintenance line item in the budget, Gardes said.

Volunteers with the library and members of the Friends of the Columbia City Community Library hope the improvements will allow them to be open longer for more patrons to visit. The exact hours have not yet been determined

and will partially depend on volunteer availability, Gardes said.

The community library gets hundreds of monthly visitors and has become an important part of the community.

"Our library has expanded its role as a vital part of our community. With these improvements we anticipate increasing our open hours, and providing a spot for local clubs to meet," Library Director Cathy Lundberg noted in a press release.

As an added note, Gardes said more volunteers are always welcome at the library.

"We're always looking for people who would like to devote a couple hours a month to keeping us working," Gardes said.

For more information about the library, visit www.freewebs.com/cccomlibrary.


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