The Longview Public Library building, originally opened in 1926, is on local and national historic registers. Remodels in the past few decades have repaired the roof, made it safe for earthquakes and changed the interior design — but now the library needs to become more tech-friendly.
On a 5-1 vote last week, the Longview City Council approved developing a $60,000 contract with Hacker Architects Inc. for a modernization study. Library Director Chris Skaugset said the library not only needs basic technical improvements — such as more electrical outlets — but also a more efficient use of space for meetings and programming.
Near the front of the library on the second floor, one room is currently being used as storage. It holds old periodicals, Christmas decorations and other out-of-date items. is The only outlet available for the entire room is behind a broken microfilm reader, limiting the staff’s options on what they could do with the room.
“You can’t do much with that in terms of setting up technology or even setting up staff,” Skaugset said.
The city has remodeled the library several times in the past few decades. In the 1950s it got a new interior. The building expanded to its 33,000 square feet in 1968, was retrofitted for earthquakes in 2001 and had a refurbished elevator installed in 2007.
The Historic Preservation Committee would have to approve any aesthetic changes to the library. Skaugset said the plan could include some repainting and carpeting, but he won’t know the extent of the changes until after the study. He estimated the contract will be ready in the next month and hopes for a design within the next six months.
“I think the question we’re all waiting for will be, ‘What’s the cost?’” Skaugset said. “That will be a big piece of it.”
The library has about 20 staff members and a $2 million budget in the city’s general fund, Skaugset said. The city’s Capital Projects Fund will pay for $50,000 of the modernization study, and the Longview Library Foundation will fund the remaining $10,000.
Councilman Ken Botero voted against the contract because he said he had concerns with hiring an outside consultant. He said he wants citizens to be more engaged with the process to help come up with better ideas for the library.
“The idea of changing (the library) is fine. We need to bring it up to date,” Botero said. “I don’t like the idea of hiring consultants to tell us what we need.”
Skaugset said his staff doesn’t have the expertise for the kind of architectural work needed to plan the changes, and he wants a new perspective on the space.
“A fresh pair of eyes would be a great thing,” Skaugset said. When someone has been around as long as he has, “you tend to see things a certain way because that’s the way it’s been, day in and day out.”
The library was the first of city founder’s R. A. Long’s gifts to the City of Longview. He and his wife gave $150,000 to the city to build the library. It was dedicated April 26, 1926, in a ceremony that included speeches by Long and Dr. Henry Suzzalo, president of the University of Washington.
The original building was designed by architect Arch Torbitt in the Georgian style to match the design for the Civic Center.