BELLINGHAM - The library's board of trustees will once again try to replace the 62-year-old downtown building as part of a new five-year plan, Library Director Pam Kiesner said Monday, April 8.
"Central Library replacement is high on this community's radar," Kiesner told a City Council committee Monday afternoon while discussing the plan, which drew from a survey of more than 3,300 who responded to queries about the library's services.
"We know that we can't effectively deliver our services out of this building," she said in an interview after talking to the committee. "We know there's so much more we could be doing if we have a building that's modern, up-to-date and contemporary."
The library's board has been wrestling with library site issues for at least a decade.
In January 2007, the board voted to build a new main library at 210 Central Ave. - the home of the current one - and the City Council approved that plan.
A series of public meetings and open houses ensued and culminated in a plan in January 2008, as the recession took hold. That plan wasn't implemented for a number of reasons, many of them economic, library officials said.
As a result, a new plan will need to be created based on today's realities, Kiesner said.
"Does it need to be as large as we were considering? Are the spaces we were thinking about then still relevant for today's world? That's a process we'd like to start this year," she said of the previous proposal, including sites that might still be available.
That plan had called for a two-story, 80,000-square-foot building.
"It could be that we end up making the same decision, but it's smart of us to take a wide look at whatever happens to be available," Kiesner said of possible locations.
The library board has formed a facilities committee, she said, noting that replacing the existing main library is the top priority for a majority of trustees.
Ultimately, the council will decide whether to build a new library, and what it would look like.
Also on the table are more hours for Bellingham Public Library's branches, which was among the themes that emerged in the survey of library patrons.
"The mayor's very adamant that we restore our open hours and so that actually will come, we hope, at the beginning of next year," Kiesner said. "It will require additional staffing, but for us that's also a priority."
Library hours were shortened because of funding cuts - which, in turn, led to a dozen fewer staff - as the city's budget shrunk because of the recession. The library turned to technology to help improve efficiency, Kiesner said, so restoring hours won't require rehiring as many staff.
READ THE REPORT
The Bellingham Public Library's strategic plan covers 2013-2017. It will be posted on the library's website sometime this week; find it online at bellinghampubliclibrary.org.
Reach Kie Relyea at 360-715-2234 or firstname.lastname@example.org.