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New director leads Aloha Community Library

Terri Palmer, the library's first paid employee, takes helm as WCCLS membership looms

Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Terri Palmer recently took over as director of the Aloha Community Library.When the Aloha Community Library went looking for a director last year, Terri Palmer didn’t apply even though she was the library’s first paid employee and had served as its interim director for much of 2014.

But when the job suddenly came open again in February, the library association came to Palmer and “twisted her arm” until she accepted, said Amy Grant, the association board’s president.

“She’s just shown the professionalism, skill and leadership, and she was the right person for the job,” Grant said. “It provides a lot of continuity.”

Palmer, a 43-year-old Beaverton-area resident, may need all those skills and more as she guides the 3-year-old Aloha Community Library during perhaps its most defining year to date.

The library’s founders undoubtedly have had 2015 circled on their mental calendars for years. This fall, voters are likely to be asked whether to increase the Washington County Cooperative Library Services’ local option levy, with some of those additional tax dollars aimed at bringing the Aloha library into the cooperative, giving Aloha patrons access to WCCLS' entire collection.

A recent survey of likely voters found that about half strongly supported a larger WCCLS levy and another 20 percent considered themselves likely to vote yes.

If voters do indeed approve a bigger levy, the Aloha Community Library could join WCCLS as early as July 1, 2016; to prepare for full participation, the Aloha Library would need to complete a long check-off list of tasks, including the synchronization of their library technology so all local patrons can access the system's entire collection.

A quick glance at a Washington County map displaying WCCLS member libraries shows that Aloha is the largest suburban area without a library marker.

“We’d go from having (11,000 or 12,000) items in our system to having millions” with access to the entire WCCLS catalog, Palmer said. “For us, that will be a huge part of being able to provide services on the scale we believe will be needed for this area.”

Palmer doesn’t yet have exact figures on how much money the levy — if passed — would supply to Aloha, with decisions about the levy's size still ahead.

“They’re delivering a large part of our costs right now,” she said over clanging last week as men unloaded one of several truckloads of library shelving Pacific University donated. The shelving is among the many items that fellow libraries and other donors have given to the Aloha Community Library over time.

Palmer can say with some confidence that better funding would allow the library to move from its current space of under 2,000 square feet in a storefront at the Bales Thriftway shopping center. Most likely, the library would move just around the corner and lease roughly 7,000 square feet that recently housed a Tuesday Morning store, a cavernous space the library currently uses as a mostly empty storage annex. The volunteer-led library would still need to mount a capital campaign to pay for remodeling a larger area, she added.

Assuming it gets new county funding, the Aloha Community Library will expand its collection, its operating hours, its staff and its special programs.

“That would be a huge benefit to the community,” she said.

Today, Aloha Community Library’s circulation of about 3,000 items per month would put it at the bottom of city and community libraries already in the WCCLS system, but Palmer figures community demand and access to the county system’s vast collection would soon push the library to the middle of the pack.

Many patrons already assumed they could bring WCCLS materials back to the Aloha library, even though it hasn’t been a member and can’t yet tap into the county system.

“People will look forward to us being able to do that for them,” she said.

Currently Palmer and Jesse Castellanos are the only paid staffers, and both work half-time. “And then we have a boatload of volunteers,” she said.

Palmer, a lover of Louise Penny mysteries, said she wants the Aloha Community Library to be fun. To that end, they recently started a read to dogs program, are expanding a technology tutoring program and will launch a book club this spring.

“That’s how we’ve made it this far,” she said of offering things the community wants.

Palmer, a former therapist with a degree in psychology rather than library science, replaced Erin Barnard, a librarian hired off the East Coast who left hastily after less than six months. Grant, the board’s chairwoman, declined to discuss Barnard’s departure, calling it a personnel matter.

“Terri has the trust and respect of our volunteers, and volunteers are so critical to our library,” Grant said. “It’s just a real good fit for us.”

By Eric Apalategui
Beaverton Reporter
email: eapalategui@commnewspapers.com
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