Friends closing in on $538,000 for new Point Roberts library

Rendering of the planned new Point Roberts library.
Rendering of the planned new Point Roberts library. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

After nearly four years of trying, the Friends of the Point Roberts Library is nearing its goal of raising $538,000 to build a new and larger library.

“The number I go to bed thinking about. The number I wake up thinking about,” said Judy Ross, a Point Roberts resident who is chairwoman of the fundraising committee, of the overall figure.

The nonprofit Friends have another $37,000 to raise. The plan is to renovate the old Julius Fire Hall, provided its foundation is deemed safe, to turn it into a new 2,500-square-foot library.

The Friends gave themselves five years to raise the money.

“We’re very pleased that they’ve gotten so far in such a short time,” said Kris Lomedico, library manager for the Point Roberts branch. “Their efforts are extraordinary.”

The library is now squeezed into a 900-square-foot space in Point Roberts Community Center, 1487 Gulf Road. The fire hall is next door. Its renovation would nearly triple the space for the library, which is part the Whatcom County Library System.

For now, there is enough room for one table and four chairs. “If four people come in with laptops, that’s it,” Lomedico said.

There’s just a small area for teens. The library also needs more room for the children’s section.

“One family goes in there and that’s it,” Lomedico said. “No one else can get in.”

There’s a floating laptop visitors can borrow, and one designated spot with a computer for Internet access, with a 30-minute time limit.

During summer, when the number of people in Point Roberts swells with visitors that include those who make their homes there during those months, the parking lot is often full with people who can’t find space inside the library but are there to use its Wi-Fi for Internet access.

So the library needs more room for people, as opposed to books, Ross said.

“It’s mostly a space issue and the time on the public computers,” she added. “You need space for people to be there. The library is the heart of the community.”

Raising the money has been a feat for a small community with about 1,300 year-round residents. The dollars have come in through things such as book sales, quilt sales, silent auctions and money donated from someone’s garage sale.

“There’s an enormous amount of small money that came in, a bit at a time,” Lomedico said.

Businesses have donated, as well as families and individuals.

Other sources were $27,000 from the McEachern Charitable Trust; $25,000 from the Norcliffe Foundation; and $7,000 from the Norman Archibald Charitable Foundation.

Then there was someone who anonymously donated $100,000 as a match — meaning the library project could get a total of $200,000.

Meanwhile, the Friends circled back to those who have previously given at least $1,000, asking if they could donate another $1,000 by the end of this year. Thirty two said yes and about half have donated.

“People really want this to work,” Ross said. “This will have been a thing that we have done for ourselves.”

The community center that houses the library is owned and managed by Point Roberts Park and Recreation District No. 1. The district bought the fire hall next to the community center in March 2010 for about $98,000.

As it does now, the Whatcom County Library System will provide staff, services and furnishings for the new space.

Architect David King is drawing up the final plans.

If it turns out that the fire hall’s foundation doesn’t meet code and has to be taken down, Ross said, a new library could be built for the same amount of money.

But if a new library costs more than $538,000, the recreation district agreed to make up the difference by asking voters to approve a levy if needed.

Reach Kie Relyea at 360-715-2234 or kie.relyea@bellinghamherald.com.

To help

Tax-deductible donations to the project to a build a new and larger library in Point Roberts are still being accepted.

Make a check out to FOPRL, Building Fund, then mail it to FOPRL, P.O. Box 970, Point Roberts, WA 98281.

Details: Keep up on the Friends of Point Roberts Library’s effort to raise money for a new library by going online to foprl.blogspot.com. The group also has a Facebook page.