Vincent Van Houton, 5, looks over toys and books in the children’s section of Freeland Library as his mother, Andrea Van Houton, attends to little brother Gavin. The library received new carpeting, furniture and brighter walls during a sprucing up. On the right, Erica Even restocks books.(Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group)

Vincent Van Houton, 5, looks over toys and books in the children’s section of Freeland Library as his mother, Andrea Van Houton, attends to little brother Gavin. The library received new carpeting, furniture and brighter walls during a sprucing up. On the right, Erica Even restocks books.(Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group)

Freeland Library gets needed makeover

Open look creates more room for books

When Freeland Library got a $91,000 makeover, Library Manager Betsy Arand expected patrons to comment about the new carpeting, bright turquoise paint and cool, streamlined furniture with built-in electrical outlets.

They did at the Jan. 8 grand reopening, which included the new executive director of Sno-Isle Libraries, Lois Langer Thompson, and music by the Dewey Decibels.

But people also raved about the “new” ceiling that features a design of wood patterns.

“It’s the same ceiling,” Arand said with a laugh, “clearly, they had never noticed it before.”

It means the recent “refresh,” which kept the library closed for about two weeks, is a success, Arand said.

“It opened up the space to make it look more inviting,” she said. “We didn’t add a room or an addition, it’s the same square footage.”

Every day, about 400 to 500 people a day come through the library.

“So it’s well-used and the carpeting was worn out in several places. Much of the furniture was from other libraries and it was mismatched,” Arand said.

Shelving, computers, chairs and tables were rearranged to create a better flow for people to move around.

The new design came with the extra bonus of more places to put books and DVDs.

“It doubled the space for DVDs so we can order more and it also doubled the space for new print fiction and new print non-fiction,” Arand said. “That will mean a lot for our readers.”

And there’s lots of readers with many different tastes to satisfy, said Arand, who has worked at all Whidbey Island libraries over her long career.

“South Whidbey has a lot of readers in addition to its writers,” Arand said. Three book clubs meet there and there’s a new “Write-In” group that meets to simply write, not read and critique each other’s work.

“The idea is to provide a quiet space for them,” she said. Soft jazz plays, there’s fresh coffee at the ready and two hours of uninterrupted time with no distractions of kids, jobs or spouses.

“It’s been really successful,” Arand said.

Freeland Library is more of a focal point than other Whidbey communities with libraries because there’s few places to gather in the unincorporated town. It also has a meeting room that is often used for government gatherings, community presentations and library talks.

“I feel like it is a community center,” Arand said. “Langley has the Commons Cafe, Useless Bay Coffee, Prima Bistro and it has South Whidbey Community Center,” she said.

“In Freeland, there’s the WiFire Coffee Bar and that’s about it. The library ends up being a meeting place. I see it all the time, people striking up conversations with neighbors, friends running into each other.”

The project, termed a “refresh,” involved eight different contractors who coordinated a fast-paced work schedule to get all the carpeting, painting, flooring and electrical work done before new furniture and other finishing touches were added.

Besides having a brighter place to work, staff also benefited from the project.

Check-out desks were replaced with standing platforms that can be raised and lowered.

“This is really nice,” said Nicole Harris, library associate at large, standing behind the new sleek work surfaces.

A laptop counter-top, much like those found in coffee shops, was added for patrons and looks out at the building’s landscaping. Many more outlets for computers and phones are also to be found, including some integrated into comfortable armchairs.

A new projection system for the library’s meeting room is to be added later. Friends of the Freeland Library, a nonprofit group, is funding the new equipment through its monthly book sales.

The project was coordinated by Sno-Isle Libraries Facilities Manager Brian Rush and District Manager Becky Bolte. It cost $91,000. Freeland Library had been identified as most in need of refurbishing among the public library system’s 23 facilities in Snohomish and Island counties.

Betsy Arand, managing librarian at Freeland Library, shows off some of the posters used during the re-opening of the facility after being closed for two weeks for a ‘refresh” project. (Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group)

Betsy Arand, managing librarian at Freeland Library, shows off some of the posters used during the re-opening of the facility after being closed for two weeks for a ‘refresh” project. (Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group)

Freeland Library may look bigger after its recent makeover but it’s the same dimensions. New carpeting and furniture, brighter paint and a rearrangement of its shelves and section created a more open and flowing space. (Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group)

Freeland Library may look bigger after its recent makeover but it’s the same dimensions. New carpeting and furniture, brighter paint and a rearrangement of its shelves and section created a more open and flowing space. (Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group)

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