The Commons is proposed for Gulf Road community center

By Meg Olson

The Friends of the Point Roberts Library (FOPRL) are aiming for a September opening of “The Commons,” which will be a combination used bookstore and pop-up community gathering place in the Gulf Road community center.

The group got unanimous approval for their proposal from the board of the Point Roberts Park and Recreation District at its August 12 meeting.

“I think this is a fantastic idea,” said parks district commissioner Chwynyn Vaughan. “It creates a sense of invitation around this being our community center.”

FOPRL president Judy Ross explained the concept was intended to fill in some of the empty spaces in programming already offered by the parks district, the seniors and the library. “We are asking for some space we can use some of the time without altering it in a way that the space can’t be used by other groups as well,” she said.

The FOPRL proposal is to put bookshelves along the walls in the back half of what is now the meeting room. Books would be for sale on the honor system any time the room is open.

“We see our used book sales as a community service and it would be nice to do it more than once or twice a year,” Ross said. “We take books people don’t want and we sell them quite cheaply, but people buy great quantities of them.” At the last FOPRL sale they sold nearly $900 worth of books at $5 a bag. The money raised is used to support library programs.

The second part of the proposal is to create a comfortable, intimate seating space surrounded by books, with a trolley for coffee and tea, for community members to get together and visit. Six comfortable chairs, side tables, screening and coffee supplies would be provided by FOPRL. “This will all disappear when the space is used for something else,” Ross said.

While most parks board members were enthusiastic, Bennett Blaustein expressed a number of concerns, from coffee spills to clutter, the foremost of which was the difficulty of moving the existing old plywood meeting table. Ross said FOPRL was willing to replace the table with something that could be moved.

Blaustein also wanted to know why the new library building, for which FOPRL had lobbied so hard to get built, could not host this program. “You have that brand-new library and people want to know why you aren’t using that for your social space,” he said.

Ross said the idea might have begun as FOPRL began looking for a more flexible space to sell books (and shelving for that purpose is not available in the new library), but as it grew, the community center seemed the best match. “Last year we had a discussion group with seven or eight people from FOPRL about how to build a sense of community. and from that discussion came the idea of The Commons as a way to create more sense of community here … and where better to have it than in the community center?”

Fellow commissioner Holly Robinson agreed the community center had greater flexibility of access since community groups can be given a code to get in, while the library is accessible only by staff.

Ross added that their plan was to be open when the library and senior center was not, broadening opportunities for the community to get together. The plan is to be open for two to three hours, three times a week.

Parks district chair Stephen Falk confirmed that they were moving ahead with a tentative timeline of having the program running by September, with replacing the meeting table in a timely fashion being the only potential hold-up.

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