Resident Maria Hazidakis (right) is among the first to check out a book from the Toledo Community Library Wednesday morning, assisted by library volunteers Barb Lewis (center) and Di Morgan (left). In the foreground, baked goods are being sold to raise funds for the operations and upkeep of the library.
After more than a year of planning and seeking community support, the Toledo Community Library is now up and running, with services and offerings expected to grow in the coming months.
Open officially as of this morning, to the eager anticipation of local residents, the library currently features thousands of books across many genres, as well as movies and periodicals, all available to check out for free to community members.
"I think it's awesome," said Pat Caldwell, who owns the library building with husband Bill Caldwell and has led efforts since the beginning of last year to bring a library to Toledo.
Prior to becoming a library, the Caldwell's building, located at 241 Cowlitz St. in Downtown Toledo, had served for a number of years as the local pharmacy, which closed in early 2011, then was home to The Daily Grind coffee shop, which closed last year.
Afterward, the Caldwells approached community members with the idea of establishing a library at the location, and efforts began to annex Toledo into the Timberland Regional Library District with the hopes of bringing a fully stocked and staffed Timberland library to town.
In February, after annexation passed with two thirds of support from voters, Timberland's Board of Directors determined it would be best to place a kiosk in Toledo and offer limited access to library services for the time being, and the idea for a community library around the kiosk was put forward, staffed and stocked entirely by volunteers.
"People have been extremely generous," said Pat Caldwell of the more than 5,000 books donated to date, stating the library currently does not have enough shelving to accommodate them all and is waiting to process new donations until they make it through the many they have already received. "At this point we really want to catch up with what we have."
And not only books have been made available. A considerable amount of DVDs and VHS, and even a scant number of Blu-ray disks, have been donated, as well as magazines and newspapers. And to keep the library in the Digital Age, computers with internet access are being donated and installed soon by Toledo Tel, who are also providing phone services and wifi to the library for free.
And for those just looking for a place to sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee with their wifi, the library has that to. In order to raise enough funds to take care of utility bills, the library is selling coffee, tea and cocoa for $2 a cup, and even has baked goods prepared by members of the Friends of the Toledo Library, available for a donation.
"This has been a long time coming," commented library volunteer Barbara Lewis of the many services now available at Toledo.
Lewis herself had been a library assistant at the Winlock Timberland Library for 28 years until retiring in February, and said she expects Toledo's new library to be a big success.
"I predict that this is going to be full once people realize they can place holds for Toledo," she said, noting the ability of patrons to reserve library materials through the kiosk and have them delivered locally.
And reserving a book from the kiosk is simple: Once you log in using your Timberland card number and password (which can be acquired by those living within the district at any Timberland branch, such as Winlock or Salkum), you can search for materials by author, title, subject or multiple other criteria. Once you find what you're looking for, click the button on the right of the screen to place the item on hold, and select to have the item picked up at Toledo. Once the item is available, a Timberland employee will drop it off at Toledo, where the item may be checked out and then returned to any Timberland location.
Resident Carolyn Maggard (foreground) was the first to reserve a book using the kiosk at the library, and was given instruction from library volunteer Pam McEachern (background). Maggard said she had once been a frequent patrol of the Timberland Regional Library system when she lived in Winlock, and now has access again after Toledo voted to annex into Timberland's district last year.
For those who may be unfamiliar with reserving books online, or with Timberland's website, the library's volunteers have been trained in assisting patrons with use of the kiosk, and are available to help with any questions or concerns.
"We want to make it as easy as possible," said Lewis.
For those checking out books from the community library itself, the process is far simpler: Just find the item you're interested in from among the well-labeled shelves, bring it up to the front counter and sign your name, phone number and the title and inventory number of the book to the check-out sheet, and you're good to go. The check-out time for all items is three weeks, and there are no late charges if you happen to bring them back a little past the due date.
Beginning today, the library is expected to be open regularly from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursdays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays. The library's resources are open to all area residents, so everyone is welcome to come and participate. If you happened to miss opening day, Timberland will be holding an official open house on Sept. 25, and all are welcome to attend.
For more information about the Toledo Community Library, including upcoming events such as a visit from Washington State Poet Laurite Elizabeth Austen on Sept 13, or how to volunteer, go to www.facebook.com/FriendsToledoTimberlandLibrary or call the Caldwells at (360) 864-6757. Book reservations may also be made from home at www.trl.org, just be sure to select Toledo as the pickup location.
The library began to fill quickly after opening on Wednesday morning with patrons and volunteers tackling the stacks of increasing donations, which currently outnumber the available shelf space. It is expected a back section of the building, currently partitioned off, will soon be carpeted and furnished to hold more books and sitting areas for patrons.