Saving a historic building – big plans for Oroville’s Public Library

Editorial Gary MugWhile Donald Trump seems to have finally jumped the shark with his plan to lockout all Muslims from the United States, back at home there are big plans to renovate the Oroville Public Library, which welcomes people of all backgrounds to its shelves of reading material.

After hearing that part of this year’s city budget for Oroville included money to upgrade the current library we were curious about what was happening now a new library building was off the table. In reality, the original plan was to renovate, not rebuild, the library which comprises the Civic League building (on the south end) built in 1913 and the library side which was built in the 1950s. However, at the time so much needed to be done that rebuilding seemed like the more sensible, even if much more expensive way to go.

Unfortunately, neither the Gates Foundation or any other mega-dollar charitable organization rode to the rescue with a grant and the old library, with it’s leaky roof, poor lighting, aging plumbing and inadequate shelving, would have to do until a new plan came about. That plan was the old plan, remodeling – and while some of the biggest problems, like the roof and the exterior paint were taken care of by the city, which owns the building, the rest has waited – but no longer.

With a new budget that includes a generous donation of over $43,000 from the Friends of the Library (FOL), the city and Oroville Library Board have come up with a plan that includes much of what the board has been dreaming about.

We listened in on the last Library Board meeting and liked what the board, FOL representatives and Librarian Barbara Pollard had to say. Many of the changes have been sketched out by Oroville’s Permit Administrator Christian Johnson. First of all the main entrance way will be moved south of its current location A ramp with a slope that complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) will lead into the building. A smaller ramp will be made at the back door which will remain in its current location, exiting into Madeline Wells Park. The two restrooms will be brought up to ADA standards – no more narrow doorways – now there will be room for persons who have wheelchairs or other special needs to use the facilities. The overall plumbing will also be updated. A hallway will go between the two restrooms with doorways on each end between the two parts of the building. The building will be opened up with much of the wall between the library and Civic League sides removed allowing for more bookshelves to be installed. The current kitchen will be split in half with the east half going for additional storage and the west half becoming more of a break room facility with sink, microwave and refrigerator.

Better, energy efficient lighting will be installed and placed to best shed light on the books on new black metal bookshelves which will be set at angles. The shelves will be deeper so the problem of books hanging out over the ends of the shelves will be greatly reduced – especially in the kids section. A pre-school corner is planned for the northeast corner of the library. Much of the old shelving will also be reused.

The hardwood maple flooring, which came from the old Oroville High School, as well as some from one of Tonasket’s old gyms will be refinished. It’s hoped the bead board on the walls on the library side will be matched and used to do the walls on the Civic League side. Speaking of the Civic League side, the windows will be changed for double pane energy efficient, transom-type ones with most raised above the new bookshelves, like those on the current library side.

Overall it sounds like a great plan and we thank the board, FOL and the city for their efforts. We especially thank Salley Bull, library board president, for taking the time to walk us through the new updates.

Bull said library usage has been consistent over the years with the greatest increases being in by-mail and online. She adds that the Oroville library serves a big area — from Chesaw to Nighthawk, Wannacut to Mt. Hull, with overlap of users from Tonasket’s area. It also has many summer visitors using the North Central Regional Library -provided Wi-Fi, checking out books, movies.

While a brand new library would have been great, it just wouldn’t have been the same as the building many of us grew up knowing as the place to find a great read. Redoing the old craftsman-style library should give us the best of both worlds while saving a historic building in downtown Oroville.

About Gary DeVon

Gary DeVon is the managing editor of the Okanogan Valley Gazette-Tribune and celebrated his 25th year at the newspaper in August 2012. He graduated from Gonzaga University with a degree in Communications - Print Journalism, with an emphasis in photojournalism. He is a proud alumnus of Oroville High School. His family first settled in Okanogan County in the late 1800s. His parents are Judy DeVon and the late Larry DeVon and he has two younger brothers - Dante and Michael. Many family members still call Oroville home. He has a grown daughter, Segornae Douglas and a young granddaughter, Erin.