Burgeoning collaboration between Port Townsend, schools aims to integrate library resources
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Ann Healy-Raymond, left, shows renovations made to the Port Townsend High School Library to, from second from left, Port Townsend City Manager David Timmons, state Board of Education Chairwoman Kris Mayer and Port Townsend Schools Superintendent David Engle. Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — When next school year begins, local students will benefit from a rejuvenation of library resources that educators hope will improve access to information pupils really need.

The library spaces in both Port Townsend High School and Blue Heron Middle School will be streamlined and reorganized in ways that encourage students to work together, while the main Carnegie Library at 1220 Lawrence St. will reopen after a closure that covered two complete school years.

Aside from these individual innovations, the 2014-2015 school year is when the long planned library services collaboration between the school district and the city facilities will take hold.

“We are becoming part of an integrated system rather than being our own little castle,” said Port Townsend School District Superintendent David Engle.

“We will have couriers who can transport the books from one system to the other.

“This is one of the things we will be doing to make books more available to kids and families.”

The collaboration was first discussed in 2008 as a way to pool resources during bad economic times, and while planning has continued, there has been little visible progress.

According to City Manager David Timmons, one factor contributing to this was the library’s focus on its capital program.

Currently, the city is ready to support the collaboration.

While the economy has improved, the project also received a $138,000 grant from the Paul Allen Foundation that is being used for equipment purchases for both institutions — iPads for the Carnegie Library and Internet-focused Chromebooks for use in the school library system.

“We are using this grant to support areas that have been underfunded in both systems and strengthen all our libraries,” said Ann Healy-Raymond, the school district’s librarian.

“It provides a great opportunity for us to work collectively.”

The project is supported by a committee that includes Healy-Raymond, Engle and Timmons representing the schools and the city, with additional representatives from the Port Townsend Library working to develop the program.

The effort is facilitated by Port Townsend consultant Kris Mayer, who is also chair of the Washington State School Board.

The removal of the larger desktop computers in the high school library area and their replacement with laptops has freed up a lot of space that will allow the library to become a friendlier, more collaborative environment, according to Healy-Raymond.

The students will be encouraged to design the area to fit their needs and will use the “makerspace” blueprint that customizes workplaces with tools that are specific to the task to be accomplished.

Another improvement in the school libraries will be the removal of books that are no longer useful or interesting.

“We are getting smarter about what books we keep,” Engle said.

“We had books that hadn’t been checked out in 30 years and were keeping them around only because they were school books and not as part of a circulating collection.”

The books removed from the collection will be catalogued and put up for auction, Healy-Raymond said.

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: June 23. 2014 6:27PM
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