Birch Bay library group laying foundations for fundraising

Brian Bell, communications chair for Friends of Birch Bay Library, enters the Whatcom County Library System bookmobile. The bookmobile parks at 7968 Birch Bay Drive, the site of the future library, from 3 to 7 p.m. every Wednesday. Photo by Oliver Lazenby

By Oliver Lazenby

Though its progress is hard to quantify, Friends of the Birch Bay Library (FOBBL) is getting closer to bringing a library to Birch Bay.

Last year the Whatcom County Library System (WCLS) purchased property at 7968 Birch Bay Drive for a future library. Now, it’ll take an estimated $3.5 million to remodel the house and buildings on the property and make the library come to life. Currently, FOBBL is building relationships with potential donors and hiring a design firm to make a plan for the library.

FOBBL took five interested design firms for a tour of the site. The group hopes to hire a firm with experience working with and soliciting ideas from the public. They want to decide on a firm by early April and begin holding public design meetings soon after, said Keith Alesse, interim FOBBL president.

Getting the community involved is an important first step for the fundraising, said Christine Perkins, WCLS executive director.

“The first thing we’re hoping people will do is come to one of our community input meetings,” Perkins said. “We really want every single person in Birch Bay to have an opportunity to weigh in on the library and help shape it.”

FOBBL’s development committee is researching other library fundraising efforts and forming relationships with potential donors, including individuals, businesses and nonprofits, said Pat Jerns, chair of the committee.

“We’ve reached out to a number of entities just to explain our story and to hear their story,” Jerns said. “It takes time. Some businesses say if you give us a proposal today, we’ll be talking about funding it in two years. It doesn’t happen today or next month.”

Ideally, FOBBL will secure more than $1 million in pledges before launching a fundraising effort.

“One thing we’ve learned is that for fundraising campaigns you want to have a significant amount pledged or in the bank before you even make an announcement, because you want to show that this is a successful project and others are going to want to contribute to it,” Perkins said.

The group has more than $10,000 pledged so far. Additionally, WCLS has set aside $600,000 to staff and outfit the library and has committed to supplying bookshelves, computers, tables, chairs and other furniture and equipment, in addition to books and other material from its collection.

WCLS parks its bookmobile at the future library site on Wednesdays, and last September it installed a book drop-off. The location is already busy with library users dropping off books and browsing at the book mobile.

“One advantage we have is that there’s already a pretty positive-looking building and activity on the property,” Alesse said. “It makes it easy for people to envision what might go there.”

Still, WCLS and FOBBL don’t expect a quick process. Friends of the Ferndale Library took eight years to raise the $4.7 million needed for a new Ferndale library in 2014.

“It’s always required a fair amount of perseverance on the part of a community to get a new library,” Alesse said.

For more information, visit the Friends of Birch Bay Library’s Facebook page or email birchbaycommunitylibrary@gmail.com to get involved.

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