Art project set for Mid-Columbia Libraries' west Pasco branch

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldDecember 19, 2012 

Flying books. Trees appearing as if pulled from tales of fantasy. And a giant toadstool reading nook.

Officials with the Mid-Columbia Libraries have ambitious plans for the artwork that will fill the new west Pasco branch, set to open sometime this winter.

The library district's board agreed to provide $93,000 to Ares Corp., which has an office in Richland, to build and manage the decorating project. Kyle Cox, executive director for the district, said the work will cost more than initially planned but will be built to be durable and to last.

"It made sense to spend a little bit more money up front," he said.

The library is being built on Wrigley Drive near the development surrounding Road 68. The district won't own the building, instead leasing it for about $1.1 million a year from the developer who will own the building and the surrounding development.

Cox said Ares was one of three companies to submit bids for the library's artwork.

"The quality of work, the amount of work they'd done was far better than the other (bidders)," he said.

The artwork will focus on sustainability. Cox said an initial proposal from Ares used items such as pillows in the children's area. Concern about how well those would last led to the idea to use more expensive but also more durable surfaces and objects, such as a reading nook shaped as a toadstool that children will be able to climb on without damaging.

The bulk of the money for the artwork will be used to construct three trees for quiet reading areas.

Cox said artwork will be limited to either the library's walls, such as with murals, or suspended from the ceiling, such as flying books.

Overall, Cox said the artwork aims to make the library an enticing place for people to visit while also serving as a refuge for reading and learning.

But Ares will have to wait a little bit longer than planned to start work. Monday's windstorm knocked down the framing for the building's west wall.

Cox said the wall was relatively simple in design and won't be difficult to replace, but could delay construction by one to two weeks.

Also Tuesday:

w Library officials unveiled the newest digital service for its patrons.

Beginning Jan. 1, patrons will be able to peruse the latest issues of 100 magazines through a service called Zinio.

The magazines, which range from Cosmopolitan and Reader's Digest to Popular Mechanics and The Economist, will be available in full digital layout via apps for the Kindle, iPad and other devices.

The magazines only will be available as far back as when the library began subscribing to them through Zinio, but patrons will have a lot of freedom in how many they can have and for how long.

"There's no wait list, there's no holds," said Michael Huff, collections director.

Cox said he was excited about the new offering, saying it could make life easier for anyone who needs to have magazines in their waiting rooms, and this is the direction that libraries are headed.

"It's the coolest thing in the history of libraries," he said.

The library district will continue to maintain magazine racks at its branches, just as it has maintained regular book collections even as it has expanded its digital e-book selections.

w Board Chairwoman Gloria Garcia ended her combined 15 years of service on the board at Tuesday's meeting.

Garcia said she's seen the libraries grow a lot over the years and is proud of the work the board and the district's staff have accomplished.

"We're way ahead of some of the bigger libraries," she said.

The board voted to recommend Martin Valadez, who is vice president of diversity and outreach at Columbia Basin College, as Garcia's replacement to the boards of commissioners of Benton and Franklin counties.

But Garcia said she won't be completely uninvolved with the libraries.

"I will be joining the Friends (of Mid-Columbia Libraries)," she said. "I need something to do."

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