L-R, Terry Livingston, Library Board President; Arron Anderson, County Commissioner; Mary Grace Strauch, County Clerk; Fred Frandson, County Commissioner; Lee and Gerry Kennedy, sellers of the Kennedy Ave Hardware Building; Karen Jean Funk, Washakie County Library Director; and Terry Wolf, County Commissioner.
A new home for the Washakie County Library is in the works. In September, Washakie County Commissioners signed a $525,000 purchase agreement with Lee and Gerry Kennedy for the Ace Hardware building in downtown Worland.
Library Director Karen Funk said the idea of a new space for the library has been on their minds for years, and this opportunity presented itself in March. The library is currently housed in a former hospital with many small spaces and rooms and poor flow throughout.
“We’ve just ‘made do’ with what we had for an incredibly long time,” Karen said. “We’ve struggled with finding enough room for books, programming, and seating — including comfortable seating for families in the children’s room.” Meeting room space and electrical capacity has also been a concern, she said.
Accessibility will be key in the new location. The building has off-street parking on the main street through town. Karen said they hope the greater visibility will increase library use, as well as help with economic growth with a new and dynamic focus to the downtown area.
“It’s a win-win for everyone,” Karen said. “Our community will have better access to the materials in the library, and the staff will be able to help patrons more efficiently. We’ll also be able to host after-hours meetings for our community in the new space when the main part of the library is closed.”
Closing on the building is set for November 5, and money has been set aside from one-cent sales tax funds for the purchase. In addition to county funding, the library will search for matching grants to help with the renovation and interior needs for the new building.
At this time there’s no timeline in place for the renovation, although the library has a conceptual design in hand. The current owners have up to one year to move, at which time the work of meeting code, adding fire suppression, and installing a new water line the length of the building will begin. New LED lighting, security, and a new front entrance directly accessible from the parking area will all be addressed as those involve engineer a design. Karen estimates the project may take up to two years.
Karen’s excited for the future of the library and what it will mean to local residents. “Washakie County may not be the richest county in the state, but it’s rich in community,” she said. “We plan on giving the people we serve a public library built for the 21st Century — the most valuable, unique resource we can offer that’s free for everyone to use.”