Quincy's Jewel turns 10: Milestone birthday for city library

From right, Schiree Ybarra, librarian of the Quincy branch of NCW Libraries, Quincy mayor Jim Hemberry, architect Brad Bisbine and North Central Regional Libraries’ board member Gail  Huntley participate in the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new library building, Dec. 19, 2011. 

It was the old domino effect; only instead of seeing things drop and fall, things grew.

With the arrival of a new library building, the city found room for its growing staff in the old library building. In this case, it served as temporary space for Quincy Police personnel.

“We knew that was never going to be enough,” said Jim Hemberry, who was the city’s mayor in 2011 when the new library opened. “So then we started looking at, ‘OK, we need to build a new police station.”

After the new police station was built, some of the city staff moved into the public services building temporarily, and the city administrator and Hemberry moved into the police department. That way, the city could build a new City Hall.

So the old library begat a new one, which begat a new QPD, which begat a new city hall.

“It was all part of a plan to modernize our facilities, provide more services with our facilities and house all of our people,” Hemberry said. “The library was the first one that had to go in order to get things organized.”

Not bad for an idea that took years to find a friendly ear and enough cash.

For years, the library board had approached the city and asked whether a new library building could become a reality.

“The building they were in cost a lot to maintain, it was old, and it didn’t really provide them with the space they needed to do the things they would like to do,” Hemberry recalled.

At the same time, the city’s staff was growing, Hemberry said and the library building was not the only one getting on in years. So the city leaders, Hemberry said, saw the new library not just as a boon for the city as a whole but as a way to relieve some of the space constraints affecting its staff.

With a new library built, the old library building would be open for the Quincy Police Department personnel to use.

“That’s when we really started seriously thinking about the possibility of building a new library,” Hemberry said.

With the help of consultant Michelle Mazzola, the city started setting its sights on a state Community Development Block Grant. After whiffing the first time, the second year, the city hit paydirt to the tune of $900,000.

The plan was to put that money together with the money the city was earning from new construction revenues, pool those resources together and build a new library.

One of the things that helped the city’s odds of scoring that grant was the fact that the city already had a piece of land in mind as a site for the future library. It showed the state that the city was serious about building a new library, grant or no grant, and that “you have some skin in the game,” Hemberry said.

“By purchasing the property and having an architect (MJ Neal and Associates, out of Wenatchee) on board, that really helped us get it. We could have tried without it, but you score way less,” Hemberry said, referring to the scoring system used to determine who gets the state grant money.

The fact that the people who owned the land where the library sits now showed a willingness to sell surprised the city leaders.

“We were like, ‘Wow, you’re willing to sell that?”’ Hemberry said.

And the ‘Wow’ effect did not stop there. Just driving by the new library had that effect on people like Hemberry.

“It was amazing,” he said. “Once we knew we had the green light, we sat down with the library board and a community group called Friends of the Library, and started asking, ‘OK, now what do you want?’”

The wish list was big, but fortunately so was the piece of land.

One of the main items on the wish list was that they wanted the library to be a cultural hub for the community, not just a place to sit, read and

talk quietly.

“When I was younger, libraries were just kind of, you know, ‘shhh! be quiet’ places,” Hemberry said. “You went in and checked out a book, or did some research, and that was that. So when we started talking about it, one of the things that was stressed was, ‘Libraries aren’t like that anymore.’”

So, this new library was to have a section for children, a section for meetings, a section for reading quietly, Internet access, something completely above and beyond the old concept of a library, Hemberry said, as well as above and beyond the abilities of the old library building, too.

“It worked out really well,” Hemberry said. “It’s nice to have that (library) sitting there. Definitely better than a vacant lot.”

Next week: The folks who were there to witness the opening of the library.



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