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South Everett library plan in motion

EVERETT — Constructing a bigger, better South Everett library may start next spring, thanks to a funding allocation set to be approved in August.
The City Council will be asked to authorize earmarking $600,000 toward designing an expanded Evergreen Branch library at its Aug. 3 meeting. The city intends to ask for construction bids in early 2017 to make the long-awaited expansion a reality.
The Evergreen Branch library opened in 1989 at a time when fewer than 70,000 people lived in Everett. Today, the city population exceeds 110,000, with 85,000 people living south of 41st Street, which is traditionally seen as the dividing line between north and south Everett.
Mayor Ray Stephanson reaffirmed at the July 13 City Council meeting that he’d like to see a community visioning process about the library start in September.
A bigger library often is brought up as a discussion point — in 2013, Stephanson called it a top priority while acknowledging money was tight — but the project itself is often shelved because of new and more pressing priorities. Tackling homelessness, for example, drew attention and resources away starting in 2014, and became an effort the city is now being awarded for.
The library has been “woefully undersized for a lot of years,” Stephanson said last week during a budget conversation at council. “It’s a challenge, but we clearly think we have a path forward on that project.”
The money will come from a city account for municipal construction projects which has roughly $11 million in it, of which $6.1 million is committed to other projects.
The library at 9512 Evergreen Way was built before the World Wide Web took hold of daily life. The city outgrew the number of computers and even outlets available in the library.
The expansion project would add 5,000 square feet to the south branch, including new study and quiet rooms, a large meeting space, additional public restrooms and computers and a larger children’s area, the city says. The parking lot would be expanded as well.
The project plan is in line with a 2013 architectural design and feasibility study to create a 5,422 square foot add-on. The projected cost in that design was $4.8 million.
Last year, the project estimate inflated to nearly $6 million because of increased demand in the construction market.
After the design is complete, a new, firm dollar figure will be known, city chief administrative officer Debra Bryant said last week.
The 8,600 square foot library can use the larger space, and as soon as possible.
A little more than 205,000 people came to the Evergreen Branch in 2014.
The main library on Hoyt Avenue downtown is 54,000 square feet in size, a little over six times larger than the Evergreen Branch. Yet, the Evergreen Branch has a checkout circulation rate that tracks about three-fifths less than the larger Branch, not one-sixth.
A city-owned building behind the library would be demolished to make way for more parking.
The south Everett library was built in 1989 using bond dollars, according to the Everett Public Library’s northwest history website. The current library was built for $1.2 million at the time, which in today’s dollars would be close to $2.4 million when adjusted for inflation.
“This is very exciting news,” library director Eileen Simmons said in a city press release. “Expanding the Evergreen Branch will enable us to provide better service to the Branch’s many patrons. The Library Board of Trustees and staff are grateful that the city is willing and able to make this investment in our community.”

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