After three years, Murray-Scholls facility needs room to grow

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Bertha Arellano and her daughter, Maira Garcia, 19, a senior at Southridge High School, search websites on the computers at the Beaverton City Library's Murray-Scholls Branch.Looking back to the 2010 opening of the Murray-Scholls Branch Library, John Finn recalls an ominous sign amid the celebratory vibe of the facility's opening weeks.

“When we first opened the doors, everything immediately left the shelves,” he said. “Our shelves were empty for six months, or a little more than that.”

Fortunately, the branch's annual $100,000 materials budget helps keep up with the demand for books, DVDs and other media. “We haven't taken much out, because it's all new, and it all checks out. It's a very well-circulated collection.”

As inspiring as the instant success of the branch was, the facility at 11200 S.W. Murray Scholls Place, suite 102, has become a victim of its own popularity in three short years.

Beaverton Libraries Director Ed House said usage of the 7,000-square-foot library has increased nearly 12 percent — compared to the combined 1 percent growth rate of other Washington County Cooperative Library Services facilities — since this time last year.

“The branch is so popular that it is out of room for adequate seating, shelving space for its collections, and most important, it does not have adequate space for children's programs and services,” said House, who plans to retire his position in late June.

The branch's twice-weekly children's story time sessions are packed to the gills every week.

“We average 30 kids for each story time,” he said. “We need to be able to offer more. There's a hungry need here for kids stuff.”

More on the way

With South Beaverton continuing to grow and last year's urban growth boundary adjustment paving the way for development of the South Cooper Mountain area, demands on the shopping center-based branch are only expected to rise.

“There is an estimated build out of 3,500 homes in the South Cooper Mountain area,” House said. “The Murray-Scholls Branch needs to plan on serving a much larger population in the coming years. Therefore, providing more space for library services is something we need to be looking at now in order to meet the demands that are currently being made and those that will come in the near future.”

Plans to expand the 3-year-old facility have already begun. Right now, it's a matter of working out an acceptable arrangement with Gramor Properties, which owns the building and adjacent vacant space library officials would like to claim. And of course, there's the funding.

A capital campaign to fund expansion kicked off last November. The current goal is to raise in the neighborhood of $350,000 to cover tenant improvements that would incorporate empty space across the corridor and an adjoining foyer into the existing library's children's area.

“We are definitely going to expand,” Finn said. “We just don't know when or how yet. Our foundation is trying to raise the capital funds to make the tenant (driven) improvements.”

The space and location meet the branch's expansion criteria. Finn and other library officials are engaging in the necessary due diligence before they approach Gramor with a proposal for the space, which has been vacant since the branch opened.

“We're still testing the waters and looking at the market, getting our chicks in a row,” Finn said. “I don't get any indication (Gramor) is not ready to work with us.”

Summer plans

Although the capital campaign is essentially on hold until space negotiations come together, Finn is confident the project could get moving in the coming months.

“The goal is to be in the space by the beginning of our summer reading program next year, in summer 2014,” he said. “Of course, the longer we go, the less likely that is. We have to have some assurance from the foundation that we'll be able to start a capital campaign in earnest, and raise that money we need to make a move."

Gearing up for this summer's reading programs, Finn is reminded of the need to branch out.

“We'd love to have more space next summer to have bigger events," he said. “People love this library.

"They just want to see us expand and provide better service.”by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Tyler Britton, 10, receives help with his reading from his tutor, Jenny Baber, at the Murray-Scholls Branch Library.

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