More than seven years after library supporters began planning for a new library in Ferndale, this dream is becoming a reality. Next summer, the new Ferndale Public Library will open at the west end of Main Street, adjacent to the "Pizza Annex" right next to City Hall. Work has already begun to prepare the site for construction and build an access road off Main Street; the official groundbreaking event will be held Sept. 7.
So what do Ferndale residents - and the community at large - have to look forward to? Many things: a modern, adaptable library that's both simple and cozy, with plenty of meeting space and natural light. SHKS Architects worked with City of Ferndale and Whatcom County Library System staff to gather public feedback at focus groups and other planning meetings over several years to come up with the optimal design. The new library will be oriented toward Mount Baker and Schell Marsh, providing visual sight lines from Main Street through the building to the unique views beyond. People will be able to admire Mount Baker while attending an event in the large community meeting room, which will accommodate up to 80 people. Flexible meeting space was one feature that came up repeatedly in planning sessions. The new library will also offer a smaller conference room. Both spaces will be available to the public; the intention is that they can be reserved for use even when the library is closed. Additionally, there will be two small study rooms within the library proper for use during open hours.
In the Pacific Northwest's climate, natural light can be essential, and the new Ferndale Public Library delivers, with four atriums and numerous skylights to provide daytime illumination. The floor plan is designed to be open and inviting, with bright, comfortable spaces for children, teens and adults to read, use computers, take part in programs and interact with one another.
There will be free WiFi access throughout the building and plenty of outlets for laptops and other devices, so patrons can download eBooks and access other online library services like genealogy databases, test preparation programs or language-learning courses.
Ample parking is another key feature - after years with only 32 parking spaces, library users quickly became accustomed to the larger lot at the library's temporary location at Pioneer Pavilion. Now popular programs like Toddler Time and Preschool Storytime can accommodate larger crowds, since parking will no longer be at a premium.
For those who prefer to visit the library on foot, its Main Street location is less than a 10-minute walk to the downtown core. By 2018, the city estimates that approximately 1,500 residents will be within a 10-minute walk to the library. Middle and high school students will be able to more easily visit the library after school now that it will be closer to school campuses.
Local businesses also stand to benefit from the new location, as visitors will continue down Main Street on their way to and from the library. Currently, the library serves between 700 to 1,000 patrons daily; this equates to more than 1 in 10 Ferndale residents using the library each day. On Sundays, visitors from Bellingham, Custer, Laurel, Blaine, Lynden and points east will come through Ferndale to use the new library, since Ferndale Public Library is the only public library in Whatcom County currently open seven days a week.
The Ferndale Public Library would not be moving forward without the combined support of both public funding and private donations. The City of Ferndale, the Whatcom Community Foundation, the Friends of the Ferndale Library, and the Whatcom County Library System all played essential roles. An incredibly generous initial million-dollar private donation followed by two challenge grants, combined with numerous other grants, gifts both large and small, and a capital bond approved by 62 percent of the voters who live within the city limits of Ferndale, all add up to a library for which the entire community can be proud.
The public is invited to a groundbreaking celebration for the new Ferndale Public Library this Saturday, Sept. 7 at 10 a.m. Park at Ferndale City Hall and walk to the building site to review the plans with the architects, enjoy some refreshments and celebrate all the hard work that went in to raising funds for this project. Everyone is encouraged to bring a small object to include in a time capsule that will be buried at the new library. Let the building begin!
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Christine Perkins is executive director and Sarah Koehler is Ferndale branch manager of the Whatcom County Library System. For more information, go online to wcls.org.