Director Rick Ball says moving the Lincoln County Public Library into the shuttered Asa Wood Elementary School could solve a lot of problems. Ball went before the Libby School Board last week to ask for its approval in exploring a possible move.
Since 2011, the Asa Wood Elementary School has sat empty. Some local leaders, including Superintendent K.W. Maki, have said the school would be a prime location for a community center. However, before that could happen, the Environmental Protection Agency would need to remove asbestos from the walls of one section of the building. Once that happens, Ball said it would be a great location for his library, which attracts about 5,000 people every month.
“It would give us more space and the parking we need and it would solve (the school district’s) problem as to what to do with the building,” he said.
The current Libby library is located on Sixth Street, near the U.S. Post Office. Ball said the Asa Wood building would give the county’s main library branch nearly four times more space. He added that the additional square footage would help the library system as a whole, because the Eureka and Troy branches are especially small and rely on the main branch for books and supplies.
“We just need more room for materials and computers,” he said.
Ball said he came up with the idea of moving the library to Asa Wood a few months ago. In early February, Lincoln County commissioners allowed Ball to look into the move. He then went before the school board on Feb. 11 to seek its approval. According to Ball, the board was interested, but wanted more information.
Last winter, the school board was considering proposals from the public to figure out what to do with the shuttered school. One of the most popular ideas was creating a community center, taking advantage of the gymnasium and meeting rooms inside the building, and the walking path and fields outside. In a survey of area residents taken in 2011, 68 percent said they would support that plan.
Libby Superintendent Maki told the Beacon last year that because of the school district’s financial constraints, an outside group would have to develop such a project. As of late last year, the school district was facing a $700,000 budget shortfall.
Ball said it is still too early to know if the library will be moving a few blocks west to Asa Wood. He said if the school board approved the plan, various site inspections and renovations would have to take place. He estimated it would be two years before the library could actually open in a new location. Still, he’s hopeful the school board will support it.
“There was no definite yes, but I feel positive about it. I think it would be a good move,” Ball said. “Everyone I’ve talked to has been really positive.”