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Columbia City's library seeking new location

Columbia City School reopening may push library out of borrowed portable

Photo Credit: FILE - The Columbia City Community Library occupies a modular building outside the shuttered Columbia City School. The portable is owned by the St. Helens School District, and now that the school district is planning to reopen Columbia City School, the library is planning to find a new home within the next year and a half.The volunteer-run library in Columbia City is planning to move to a new location due to the imminent reopening of Columbia City School, the city announced in its December newsletter.

The Columbia City Community Library expects to be “looking for a new location within the next year and a half,” the newsletter said.

The library has been operating in a portable building provided by the St. Helens School District since 2012, when the school district shuttered Columbia City School. However, with the district now planning to reactivate the school in time for the 2015-16 school year, the library’s future in the portable building is in doubt.

Head librarian Cathy Lundberg said organizers have always considered the portable to be a “temporary” arrangement. She said the library has been scouting out prospective new sites since it was forced out of a storefront location near City Hall, but it has not found anything suitable.

According to the city newsletter, library organizers hope to keep the library on Second Street. Anyone interested in selling property in the area is asked to contact the library to determine whether it would be a suitable site.

“My preference would be for something that’s on a double lot, so we have enough space for parking and expansion,” Lundberg said.

But, she added, the library could function on “even a vacant lot that we could move a portable similar to the one we’re in onto.”

The library will be permitted to remain in the portable it is borrowing from the school district for at least the first year in which Columbia City School is open.

“We were not looking to move them,” said Mark Davalos, superintendent of the St. Helens School District.

Davalos left open the possibility that the library could, potentially, stay in the portable for longer than one more school year.

“Maybe, depending on what we do, we might just continue that if they can’t come up with something,” he said, adding, “As long as we have space ... they’re welcome there.”

The future configuration of Columbia City School has yet to be determined, but regardless of what it is, Davalos said he does not believe the district will need the library’s portable next year.

Even if its future location is up in the air, Lundberg said people should not give up on the library.

“We’ve managed through two moves already successfully, and I think we’ll figure out how to do this,” she said.

The library receives little funding from the city. It relies on volunteers and donations to stay open.

The library serves residents of Columbia County, with an emphasis on providing books and library services for Columbia City residents and others who live outside a public library district.

Lundberg said she would like to see more patronage of the library. Although its physical space is small, the library boasts some 11,800 titles, she said.