North Plains, Oregon, a rural community of 1800 people, was one of the few towns in Washington County without a public library. In 2000 the North Plains City Council set a goal to change that situation, and a small group of citizens met to explore the concept. This group became the Friends of the North Plains Public Library (Friends), a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. They shared a vision – a library in North Plains that would eventually become a full-fledged member of the Washington County Cooperative Library Services.
Working with the city staff, the Friends identified a small janitor’s closet at the Jessie Mays Community Center as a possible area for the library. Taking book donations from the community, the Friends held their first book sale to raise money. Some of the donated books were added to the growing library collection as the small space was converted to serve as the town’s first library.
In April 2002, the City of North Plains established a Library Board to create policies and job descriptions and to work with the Friends on the city’s behalf. The Board first met in August 2002, and drafted an ordinance for the city to establish a public library.
In December 2002, the city hired a volunteer library director, Cynthia Peterson, and she worked tirelessly with the Friends to prepare the library. Members of the Friends donated hundreds of hours cataloging books, setting up shelves, creating a check-out system, erecting signs and many other tasks needed to open the library. The 590 sq. ft. library at the Jessie Mays Community Center opened in February 2003 with a collection of 1,762 items. Almost 500 items circulated during the first month.
The Library operated solely with volunteers for the first year, but could only be kept open 12 hours a week initially. Three donated computers gave patrons access to the internet, and the Friends soon purchased and set up a computer system to catalog and check out materials. In 2004 a part-time volunteer coordinator, Terri Palmer, was hired, and as more volunteers were added, the library could be kept open two evenings a week. The library served 2,570 people, checked out 7,692 items, and had 3,863 items on its shelves, with the help of 1,418 hours from volunteers.
In April, 2004, an exciting event took place: Wayne Holm, CEO of Oregon-Canadian Forest Products offered to donate funds and materials for construction of a new 2,500 square foot building for the library if other funds could be raised for the land, site improvements, equipment and furnishings. A partnership was then formed, with the City of North Plains offering to lease a building site to the Friends for $1 per year, and the Friends committing to raise the funds needed for site improvements, equipment and furnishings.
The Friends prepared a grant request and submitted it to the Ford Institute for Community Building to hire a consultant to assist with planning a capital campaign. Within days the Institute funded the request and the Friends spent the summer months writing a feasibility study, preparing a development plan, learning how to write grants, researching potential funding sources, and developing the tools necessary to tell their story to the public.
Within six months the Friends had raised over $326,000. Foundations and private corporations had pledged a total of $254,000 and the families and businesses in the North Plains community had donated $72,886. Construction was ready to begin!
While fundraising was underway, Mr. Holm worked with Ralph Hill, architect, as the building was designed. A Steering Committee of community residents and business people was formed to bring diverse perspectives to the planning process.
On a beautiful spring day, April 28, 2005, a crowd of 150 attended the groundbreaking ceremony. Everyone was asked to bring his/her own shovel so they could turn a spade of dirt as well.
Wayne Holm chose to construct a new building for the Public Library “to give back to a community which has helped his company become successful over the past 25 years.” Many of the construction materials used in the building would showcase the specialty clear wood products that are the lifeblood of Oregon-Canadian Forest Products.
Five Star Builders of Banks was hired as the contractor. Applications for building permits were submitted in May and excavation began in June with hopes of completion within one year.
As the building neared completion, volunteers worked with the library director to prepare and pack thousands of books for the move. By April 15, 2006, 23 volunteers had worked a total of 97 hours to move and shelve 10,242 books. A network of sixteen brand new computers was set up by volunteers the following week for use by patrons and staff.
The new North Plains Public Library building opened on April 29, 2006 with a well attended ribbon-cutting ceremony, speeches and reception for the entire community. The new building became the pride of the town, a unique symbol of what can be accomplished when a community works together. No public funds were sought for construction of the building. The City of North Plains has leased the land to the Friends for a nominal fee and the city, the Friends, and WCCLS work together to provide operating funds.
In 2007 the library fulfilled all requirements and became part of Washington County Cooperative Library Services (WCCLS). Today the library operates with a part-time director and part-time staff. Volunteers continue to be critical to the operation of the library.
Unique Exterior Features
The siding is clear vertical grain Douglas Fir manufactured from second growth trees. The dark stained window and door trim is Douglas Fir. The wainscoting around the entire building is Honey Ledge rock.
Looking up, the cupola was included in the design to bring more natural light into the building, and the electric windows can be opened for fresh air circulation.
The granite tiles lining the entry plaza and the sidewalk were donated by Rose City Granite, Marble & Tile. The Founder’s Circle Donors’ names were engraved on the tiles and Rose City installed the tiles. The landscaping was designed to be low maintenance and includes native, adaptive plants to reduce the warm weather watering requirements. When site excavation began, the existing memorial trees on the property had to be removed. All of the donors have a new tree and each is marked accordingly.
The entry plaza to the library is on the Northwest corner. The unusual front door was manufactured from Douglas Fir and inset with cut glass.
As you step into the building, your eyes are immediately drawn upwards to the center of the building. On each side is a Douglas Fir laminated beam that stretches from outside the building to the cupola. On top of that beam, beginning inside above the front door, is a 40 foot Douglas Fir beam.
The single beaded paneling in the cupola is clear Hemlock. The windows are controlled by electrical switches behind the circulation desk. The ceiling in the main area is 2×6 clear Hemlock. All of the beams are made from Douglas Fir. There are three other laminated Douglas Fir beams. The iron connectors were hand made specifically for the building. The trim around the windows, doors and the two vertical posts are made from old growth vertical grain Douglas fir. All of the interior doors were manufactured from Douglas fir.
Mr. Holm provided Tiger Wood (Muricatiara) from South America for all of the book shelves. It was also used as paneling on the front of the circulation desk. The exceptional grain of the Tiger Wood has given the Library a unique character.
When you step into the Program Room you’ll notice the dark Douglas Fir beamed ceiling with the vertical grain Hemlock paneling in each section.
Oregon-Canadian is a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified chain-of-custody producer. Wherever possible, FSC-certified products were used. The Douglas Fir and Hemlock used in the building are from Northwest sustained-yield forests. The hardwood used for shelving units was provided by a South American FSC-certified producer.
The late Jeanie Holm, former Secretary-Treasurer of Oregon-Canadian Forest Products, Inc. and wife of Wayne Holm, participated from the beginning of the building design process. She participated on the Steering Committee and also chaired the Furniture, Fixtures and Furnishings Subcommittee, while working closely with the interior designer, Carole Jackson.
The Friends wanted to involve children as well, but did not want to ask them to participate in the fundraising, so, Mrs. Holm brought her art literacy experience into play by organizing an art project with the North Plains Elementary School and Evergreen Junior High School in the Fall of 2004.
Local artist Michael Orwick prepared canvases with drawings depicting the history of the local area. With these canvases laid around the school gym, every child had an opportunity to put their own personal brush strokes on the paintings.
In addition, Mrs. Holm conceived the idea of a banner over the circulation desk. She worked with Jeff Upton from Glencoe High School, who was the sole artist for this piece. Mrs. Holm also coordinated the donation of artwork from Robert Weller, Michael Orwick and Debra Ramsey. All items are on display in the Library.
Wayne and Jeanie Holm, the Friends, and the City of North Plains extend their heartfelt thanks to all of the donors to our library.