Deschutes County’s public library system recently unveiled a new facilities plan that features major improvements, such as replacing the East Bend Public Library with a 95,000-square-foot building that would become the system’s flagship.

The new library would be three times as large as the system’s largest branch, on Wall Street in downtown Bend.

The Deschutes library system’s facilities capital plan was compiled over seven months, with input from community members and library staff about how the libraries should look and be used in the future.

“Probably the biggest piece we got out of this was getting a chance to talk with people across the county about what the library means to them and what it will mean to them in the future,” said Todd Dunkelberg, Deschutes Public Library director.

Each of the six Deschutes County libraries — located in Bend, Redmond, La Pine, Sisters and Sunriver — have limited space for meetings and programs. And the libraries cannot serve the anticipated population growth of the region, Dunkelberg said.

“We don’t want to be 20 years down the road with double the population and really struggling to accommodate everyone,” he said.

The lease for the East Bend Public Library’s current space in a shopping center off U.S. Highway 20 will expire in 2021. The facilities plan recommends the library move from that 8,000-square-foot space into a new central library that is at least 95,000 square feet. The new library would house administrative services, which are currently in a separate building in downtown Bend.

Where the central library will be built and how it will be paid for is yet to be determined. The initial estimated cost is between $74.6 million to $90.4 million.

The library system is weighing all funding options, from grants and donations to a voter-­approved bond measure. The library system’s current funding stems from property taxes collected in the library taxing district.

Dunkelberg said library staff is in the process of hiring a real estate agent to help find available land in Bend. In addition, staff is searching for an architect to create conceptual designs for the new library and remodeling plans for the other libraries.

Other work

For the Redmond Public Library, the facilities plan recommends doubling the space to about 40,000 square feet by either building on the existing location or finding a new lot. A new location is also being considered for the Sunriver library. For the remaining libraries, the plan recommends remodeling to increase space for visitors and programs.

A timeline has not been set, but work would likely start first on the new central library in Bend. Once that library is built, it could house the collections from the other libraries while they are renovated, Dunkelberg said.

The facilities plan focuses on creating room for children’s activities.

Creating more community spaces is another way for the local libraries to connect with the community, he said.

“The real trend with libraries, not just across the country but across the world, is transforming them into community spaces where people have that chance to meet and gather,” Dunkelberg said.

The first library in Bend opened in 1904 as a subscription club that loaned a variety of materials from the state of Oregon’s traveling library. The Deschutes County Library system was formed in the 1920s and brought together independent libraries in Bend and Redmond.

Today, the library system serves more than 2,300 people on an average day. Those visitors check out more than 6,100 items, one-third of which are children’s materials.

A motivation behind the new facilities plan is to honor the work done over the last century and continue that for the next generation, Dunkelberg said.

“We have a tradition to build on,” he said, “and we have community that values and supports it.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7820, kspurr@bendbulletin.com

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