By Mary Owen
The Lyons Public Library is going to church, literally.
The city of Lyons recently purchased the former United Methodist Church building at Eighth and Ash streets in downtown Lyons to expand library services and provide space for community events.
“This project began a couple of years after I began working for the city,” City Administrator Mary Mitchell said.
Mitchell said the project started with a grant received through the Northwest Economic Adjustment Initiative as part of the Northwest Forest Plan and the Consolidated Appropriations Bill of 2000.
“We used the grant funding to conduct a citywide community action planning process,” she said.
Mitchell said the survey’s results showed 73 percent of the citizens in Lyons would be supportive of a community center, with youth activities at the top of the list for types of events community members wanted to see included.
An expanded library also ranked “very high” for Lyons citizens, she said.
“We adopted the Strategic Plan in 2001 and in 2005 the city received funding to perform a feasibility study to determine current and future facility needs,” Mitchell said. “The study was completed, and it was determined that the projects certainly were feasible, but unfortunately, no property or building was found to locate the facilities on.”
When the United Methodist Church property went on the market, city officials jumped at the chance to purchase the building as the future home for the library and community center.
City officials negotiated with church representative Tony Willford in Bend, with an agreement forthcoming to purchase the building for $90,000. The city paid $50,000 at closing and will pay $10,000 each year for the next four years, with funds coming from a reserve put aside for such a facility from the beginning of the process.
“Maintenance will be ongoing,” Mitchell said. “We believe in a ‘pay as you go’ plan that enables us to incrementally improve facilities without the need to place a levy or a bond on the ballot to raise taxes to accomplish our goals.”
Mitchell said the city hopes to open the bottom floor as a community center and move the library into the top floor of the church building by spring.
“This will provide expanded services and facilities for library users,” she said. “There will be additional computers, office space and a study area.”
Librarian Brenda Harris said the new library space will also have a reading area with a fireplace, offering patrons a place to cozy up with a good book. With the community center nearby, she hopes to have more programs available.
“I’m excited,” said Harris, a former library volunteer and library board member. “I’ve been involved with the library for 18 years, and I was beginning to think expanding the library wouldn’t happen while I was still here. I can’t wait to get started and have more space.”
The new library will have 1,169 square feet, almost 400 square feet more than the existing library, housed in the rear of the city’s offices.
The additional space will provide Harris a private office, something she has not had in her 16 years of service. Weyerhaeuser in Stayton is donating eight computers for patron, student and staff use.
Harris said library board members, staff, Friends of the Library and volunteers will help move the library’s contents from place to place. After relocating is completed, the old library space will become “home” for city council meetings.
“We’ll then have a council chamber that can adequately fit a group of citizens addressing council,” Mitchell said. The space will be, she added, “less cramped and more inviting.”
Mitchell said most of the changes to the church will be cosmetic – replacing wiring, improving handicap access and building shelves.
“We will continue to maintain the historical preservation of the building and prevent if from falling into disrepair,” she said. “This will also eliminate the potential vandalism that comes from unoccupied structures. The city also has the ability to financially maintain the building and the grounds.”
The United Methodist Church building, first built in 1893 and rebuilt after a fire in 1953, fulfills “a need for the community, the library, the church and the elected and appointed officials,” Mitchell said.