Doors are once again open to the beloved Boundary County Library
By Taylor Shillam | Photo Courtesy of Boundary County Library
“There’s no such thing as too many books,” claims Boundary County Library. After reopening in July under the guidance of Interim Director Sandy Ashworth, the Boundary County Library continually proves it offers much more than books alone.
Since 1913, Boundary County Library has become a staple within the Bonners Ferry community—a hub of enrichment, education and culture. Named 2017's Best Small Library in America in Library Journal, the library has grown in terms of location, size, member count and resources since its humble beginning as a wheelbarrow transporting donated books around town. The library reopened its doors this summer, amidst the pandemic and upon a looming budget deadline.
At the hub of the library's growth and reopening success has been Sandy, who came out of retirement to help restore the library she had already dedicated over 30 years of her career to, emerging from retirement to act as interim director. “I volunteered to step in and help as a trainer and consultant,” she explained.
Now 80 years young, Sandy rejoined the library in March of 2021, when the deadline for the following fiscal year’s budget was fast approaching and the library remained without a permanent director.
With her budgeting experience and extensive knowledge of the library’s systems, she returned to her old home without hesitation. “The budget deadline was a strong incentive to move forward,” she shared. "There’s no delaying a deadline set by the state tax commission."
She found herself picking up right where she left off—and enjoying the process. “After having the opportunity to come back, I realized how much I missed working here, my library family, and meeting new people,” she said. “The job was such a blessing, and I was happy to come back to the opportunity.”
Upon her return as interim director, Sandy dove in to help the library’s reopening stay on track, including book orders and sorting new materials. “We’re building on past successes,” she said, “with the goals of increasing capacity, capability to provide services and staying relevant.”
Sandy has seen the library’s growth from a close perspective, especially in the realm of technology. With internet services becoming increasingly accessible, the library has been able to significantly expand its digital offerings. “We have more online services, education and trainings. We’ve joined the statewide consortium with over 100,000 eBooks and online books,” she said.
The library hosts a long list of programs and services, including digital learning, tutoring, children’s programs, Nerf Wars and Chess Club. Its calendar is lined with immersive story time events like Harry Potter Day and Tolkien Day. It’s no surprise the library maintains its dedicated following and strong community feel.
“The public was very happy we were open, and we were happy to be open,” Sandy said of the community's warm reception to the library's reopening this past July.
Sandy’s retirement from the library began October 1, 2016, although she never stayed far away after leaving. She used her time to organize her own book collection—a library of her old favorites kept at home. “I never lost my interest in how things were going in the publishing industry,” she said. Sandy would come in and out of the library frequently during those few years.
As the library prepares to appoint a new director in the coming weeks, Sandy continues to wear a lot of hats. “I’ve done every job here throughout the years,” she said. She still finds herself working in every aspect of the library’s operations, from the orders desk to sorting children’s books. Her focus is on building on the success already garnered by the Best Small Library in America, even through difficult circumstances.
“We appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding with the long delay,” Sandy shared of the library reopening its doors amidst the pandemic. “Things out of our control took longer than we expected.”
Now operating Tuesday through Saturday from 9am to 5pm, it holds longer Saturday hours than it ever has before. This schedule coincides well with the four-day week schedule within the school district, Sandy explained; a schedule that leaves students with more time to explore the library.
For students, adults and readers of all kinds, the Boundary County Library is a special place. More than a library, it’s a center of community where much can be celebrated: education, culture, progress and play. The growth the library has experienced since 1913 is only slated to continue, especially with the support of its community and of dedicated individuals like Sandy, a true example of the lifelong impact a library can make.
More information about the Boundary County Library’s current events, services and schedule can be found at BoundaryCountyLibrary.com.