Sunday, September 19, 2021

Stillwater’s Little Library seeks triple space in a historic mill building

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On Oct. 5, residents will vote on whether to allow the $4.4 million project, which comes with a tax increase. All property owners would pay $35.18 per $100,000 in assessed property each year for 20 years to pay off the bond. The library hopes the project is attractive to voters in the Stillwater school district not only to greatly increase library services, but to utilize a historic building, and to hook it up to a trail on the river as well as be adjacent to the Stillwater Blockhouse Museum.

The move would allow Stillwater to offer services that most libraries already provide. While about half the people who come to the library check out books, the other half need assistance in other ways. Libraries are becoming the hub for information: people take classes, do research and hold meetings. “We can’t move things any more than we have,” Kipp said. “We can never do classes here.”

The computer room has four computers, squeezed into corners. The hallway-sized space was once filled with bookshelves, but now they’ve fit in a free farmers market stand in addition to the computers. There’s barely enough room to edge in a wheelchair, but most power scooters won’t fit through the doorway. Instead they teach one-on-one. They help residents file their taxes, get widowers connected to VA services, and show seasonal workers how to sign up for health care. Before COVID-19, teens would sign up to teach elderly people how to use a smart phone.

But there isn’t enough room to create the meeting and class space needed at the current library. “Libraries have changed,” said library Director Sara Kipp.

“This is my most exciting thing, the community room,” Kipp said. The new building would have two conference rooms – a large one for classes and a smaller one for meetings. PTOs, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and many others have used the library for meetings.

By fire code, the current library can’t have more than 24 people in the main room at once, including the children’s area. But before the pandemic, a children’s program could easily bring in more than that. The new building would also move the children’s library upstairs, where programs won’t echo throughout the entire library. “If you’re (at the help desk) trying to ask a question, sometimes you can’t hear over the singing and clapping,” Kipp said. “This gives them more space, and you would be able to hear yourself.”

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