I’ve become an unabashed library junkie since I moved to the Methow. I don’t need intervention and don’t want rehab. It’s a healthy habit and I would encourage anyone to become a user.
Twisp librarian Dawn Woodruff and her Winthrop counterpart Sally Portman will confirm that I regularly prowl both their spaces in search of books and DVDs. Because the Winthrop library is on the way home, I tend to stop there a few times a week, just in case there’s something new that might catch my interest. I hardly ever leave empty-handed. I’ve confessed before that I get a tad anxious when the book pile at my cabin falls below a certain level. Without a television to distract me, I need backup in the reading category.
The North Central Regional Library system, which includes the Twisp and Winthrop outposts, is a remarkable thing. You can pretty much order something you’d like to see if the library doesn’t have it. The DVD selection recently expanded to include “adult content” movies, which means you aren’t limited to kid-friendly content. Computer access provides free connections to a literal universe of information and other services. Your library card is like a membership pass to vast resources you might not otherwise be able to utilize.
The local libraries defy the traditional stereotype of solemn silence overseen by stern shushers. Our libraries, snug spaces with close quarters, aren’t quiet or inert. They are active, interactive, and often rather noisy with the voices of kids having fun and adults conversing. The spaces are too small to accommodate private nooks. If you’re using a computer or reading a newspaper or magazine, you’ll likely have to put up with some socializing — yours or someone else’s.
Which is to say, they are places where people go to do things, learn things, stay in touch with things. They are community-centric, highly social gathering nodes that form around the common human needs for knowledge and connectivity. And they are egalitarian refuges. At the library, it’s sort of like being at Disneyland — age and socio-economic status don’t matter because everyone is sharing the same experience.
These things are important to understand when thinking about, talking about and planning for a new library in Winthrop. Friends of the Winthrop Public Library (FOWL), the nonprofit group that is coordinating the effort to build a new library, is not advocating for a different kind of library. They are promoting the same kind of library — welcoming, eclectic, truly public — that Winthrop has now. Only bigger, with more and better resources. You might say it’s, um, overdue. I love it when the kids are going all creative with their Legos at the Winthrop library, but I’d just as soon not worry about tripping over them on my way to the fiction stacks.
FOWL is a determined group of people who have already spent a lot of time conducting a community needs assessment, contacting potential donors to the building campaign and laying out a realistic time line for the project. Their progress has been low-key but steady, never losing momentum. At the same time, they have from the start emphasized that what results from all that effort will be the community’s library, and the community needs to commit to the vision as well.
The Town of Winthrop, which will eventually own the new library building (the North Central Regional Library will continue to operate, furnish and equip it), is closing in on the purchase of a conveniently situated site on White Avenue. That’s tangible.
As for community involvement — this weekend, FOWL is organizing two events intended to get us all in a library frame of mind. On Friday (Dec. 7), FOWL will host a “First Friday” program at Trail’s End Bookstore in Winthrop, featuring architect Ray Johnston discussing “The Vital Role of Libraries in Community in the 21st Century.” The free event begins at 6 p.m.
On Sunday (Dec. 9), FOWL is sponsoring a community workshop titled “Hopes & Dreams,” to generate direct community input on what the new library should include. Johnston will be the facilitator for that discussion, which will be from 2-4 p.m. at the Winthrop Barn.
So if you want to learn more about what’s happening in the new library campaign, or offer you own thoughts, those are instant opportunities. There will he more in the future. As they say at the library — check it out.