By Oliver Lazenby
To help determine the need for a new library branch in Birch Bay, the Whatcom County Library System (WCLS) is collecting input from Birch Bay residents through a survey.
The survey, online at wcls.org, seeks to find out whether library use would increase if Birch Bay residents had the option of using a library in Birch Bay, according to a press release from WCLS.
WCLS determined in September that Birch Bay is one of three communities in the county in most need of a library branch.
A service area analysis found that Birch Bay users checked out more than 110,000 items in 2015 and “made significant use of electronic resources.” Also in 2015, 30 percent of items checked out at the Blaine library were lent to Birch Bay residents, as well as 5 percent from Ferndale and 1.5 percent from Lynden, according to a presentation at a November 15 WCLS board of trustees meeting.
WCLS isn’t planning to change its services at the Blaine Library or other nearby branches if a location is launched in Birch Bay, said Christine Perkins, WCLS executive director.
“This would be in addition to Blaine, Ferndale or other branches,” she said. “The Blaine Library would in no way be impacted. We’re still very supportive of Blaine’s needs.”
It would, however, affect the Bookmobile, a traveling library that currently parks in Birch for five hours a week. A permanent library would replace that service.
Concurrently, WCLS is considering a possible location for a Birch Bay Library branch. Gary and Cindy Lou Vogt offered their 0.86-acre property and house at 7986 Birch Bay Drive as a library facility for $750,000 in
In a recently commissioned analysis of the building, Zervas Group Architects of Bellingham estimated that all the work required to build an ideal library on the site – including remodeling the current house, demolishing two shed buildings and building a 6,000-square-foot facility in their place – would cost $2.5 million.
The board determined at an earlier meeting that the house on its own would provide less space per user than any other WCLS library. Perkins said the Zervas Group’s estimate is in line with the cost of other projects on WCLS libraries.
Creating a library on the Vogt property could cost less than the estimate; the building used in the estimate would be an ideal size, but something smaller could still be functional.
The board of trustees authorized WCLS to pay the Zervas Group $40,000 for a more thorough study of the site at its November 15 meeting.
Typically, cities and community groups raise the money to build library buildings and WCLS operates them, providing furniture, technology, staff and library
In its initial analysis, the Zervas Group also found that the house may be eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, a status that could make it eligible for tax benefits but would come with development
The library board could make a decision on whether to pursue adding more services at its December 20 board meeting, Perkins said. Whether or not they’ll pursue the Vogt property probably won’t be decided until early next year.
Live in Birch Bay? The Whatcom County Library System wants your input on a possible new library.
Find the survey on the library system’s website at wcls.org.
Responses are due no later than Sunday, December 11