A new Bigfork library, for both the high school and the community, is part of the decision facing voters in the upcoming school bond election. The $11.1-million bond would pay for renovation and expansion of the school, and a new 4,800-square-foot library.
“I think this is a great opportunity for the community to invest in itself,” says Bigfork High School librarian Matt Porrovecchio, who started researching joint school-county libraries after a nudge from the school board.
In the spring of 2007 Flathead County proposed a new library for Bigfork at the Potozny Baseball Field near the post office. The project carried a million-dollar-plus price tag, and was rejected.
“Some people didn’t like the price,” says school board trustee Denny Sabo, “Some people didn’t like cannibalizing a sports program.” The school board was already looking into renovation options for the district, and began talking with the county about joining efforts.
“We just thought, ‘Geez, wouldn’t it be nice to do something efficient?’” says Sabo.
After voters rejected the BHS bond request in October Sabo heard the joint library element was one reason people voted against the bond. Parents worried about access to adult material, and the mix of their kids and adult patrons, especially the risk of vagrants hanging out in the school library. Porrovecchio says in his research, he never came across an example of harm coming to a student. He also noted that when he interned at the Kalispell branch, K-12 students from School District 5 used the library daily.
Porrovecchio, Sabo and representatives from the Flathead County Library Board took a field trip to Saint Ignatius, which has had a school-community library for 12 years
“It was a great kind of example because the amount of square footage they have is almost the same as the square footage we’re proposing,” says Sabo. Porrovecchio says a bonus Bigfork has over Saint Ignatius and other communities he studied is Bigfork is starting from scratch; it can design to accommodate safety and space concerns. Tips they got from Saint Ignatius included making a centrally located circulation desk and restrooms in the library so adults don’t have to go into the school to use the facilities.
Bigfork’s design calls for a separate entrance for after-school hours and the public, and the entrance to the library from the school goes in right next to the main office. The circulation desk offers a clear view of both entrances as well as an overview of the whole library. It’s on the first floor, and would have adult restrooms. Dedicated library patron parking, a meeting room and computer lab are also part of the plan.
The county and the school cite benefits ranging from longer, predictable hours, to more resources, sharing the cost of resources, and creating a better community center.
“Libraries aren’t just about books,” says Porrovecchio. “It’s a cultural center. It’s a place to meet. It’s a place for the community to become one.”
For more information about the bond election and the proposed construction see the district website: http://suse.bigfork.k12.mt.us/district/index.htm.
Related: Bigfork Bond Back on the Ballot
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