SUDDEN VALLEY - After years of fundraising and thousands of hours of volunteer labor, the South Whatcom Library is edging toward opening near the end of February.
For now, the Friends of the Sudden Valley Library are finishing the renovation of a barn in their community to turn it into a much-needed 6,500-square-foot library, found through Gate 2 in Sudden Valley.
Members of the Friends have been driving the project since forming the nonprofit in April 2010, saying the area that makes up Sudden Valley, other parts of south Lake Whatcom and Glenhaven has outgrown the limited services now provided twice a week - for a total of five hours - by the Whatcom County Library System's bookmobile.
"It's very well utilized. You often have to wait to get into it," said Bob Cooper, founding member of the Friends group and its president.
"There's no way it can keep up with the demand," he added, saying about 12,000 people live in the area.
Cooper said the Friends will turn the keys over to the Whatcom County Library System on Feb. 1.
Library staff will start moving in then and plan to open Feb. 25, followed by a grand opening in April.
The project is a collaboration of the Friends, Whatcom County Library System, and the Sudden Valley Community Association. The library system will provide library materials, computers, furnishings and staff for the branch upon the renovation's completion.
When the barn opens as the 10th branch of the Whatcom County Library System, it will replace the bookmobile service in the community. The library will include a meeting room, space for teens and children, as well as events.
It also will be open much longer at 43 hours a week.
Karin Schulhauser, who managed the Sumas library branch, will oversee the new South Whatcom branch.
"We're thrilled," said Christine Perkins, executive director of Whatcom County Library System.
"We are so fortunate that there are so many talented people in south Whatcom and the Sudden Valley area who know a lot about architecture, building projects, construction," Perkins said. "They are amazingly gifted in what they're able to do and amazingly generous in their time."
The renovation will cost $370,000 to $400,000 - and the Friends have raised the money needed, thanks to the generosity of private donors and organizations, including $10,000 each from The Rotary Club of Bellingham and Wilson Engineering.
The project also got financial help through an $80,000 grant from the Washington State Department of Commerce.
Cooper said about 14,000 volunteer hours have gone into the library effort, praising a "fantastic" group of volunteers.
Those included standout contributions from Bob Bryant, who served as a sort of construction manager; David Hamilton, an architect who designed the barn renovation; and Karen McGuinness, the Friends vice president who oversaw the volunteer labor.
Sudden Valley is a private community run by the Sudden Valley Community Association and funded by membership dues.
The South Whatcom Library is in the Sudden Valley Community Center's middle barn, 8 Barn View Court. Find it by going through Gate 2 in Sudden Valley
It has a planned opening of Feb. 25. When the 10th branch of the Whatcom County Library System opens, its hours will be:
-- 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday.
-- 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday.
-- 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.
Reach Kie Relyea at 360-715-2234 or firstname.lastname@example.org .