• The current building was originally constructed as a restaurant in the 1970's.  The site was purchased by the Library District and opened in 1983, with a fraction of the space it now occupies.  In 1988 and 1995 major renovations and an expansion created additional space, followed by renovations in 2005 to maximize the usable space within the existing building.  

     

    The Library is bursting at the seams.  The island's population has grown by more than 50% since the building was expanded in 1995, and over the same time the variety of activities in the Library have grown, especially in the demand for technology.  Today, we face the following limits:

    • We are unable to provide sufficient work stations and outlets in quiet areas for individual using computers -- whether their own or the Library's.  
    • There is inadequate space for children's materials and activities.
    • There is inadequate space for teens separate from younger children.
    • There is no space for additional collections -- offering something new means that we have to cut existing materials from the collection.
    • We cannot meet the community's demand for meeting room space for public meetings, nor to host all of the Library's many programs.  Many programs have to be held offsite.  
    • There are no spaces for individuals or small groups to meet for quiet collaboration or privacy.
    • The Library is noisy due to the necessary proximity of public service areas, to the areas for work, study, and reading, and inadequate separation between children's, teen, and adult areas.  
    • Because we maximize the usable space within the Library, the staff areas are crowded and inadequate to process materials, complete assignments, and prepare programs for our patrons.  
    • Parking is inadequate and often difficult to access safely.

     

    Quite simply, the Library that served our needs well in 1995 cannot keep up with the island community of today.  

     

  • In 2017 and 2018, the Library District conducted a full structural engineering and feasibility study to determine what expansion options existed at the Guard Street site.  That study showed that the existing building does not have the structural integrity and strength to add a second floor.  An expanded building would also require additional parking, which is not possible on the site.  

    The current site is only .66 of an acre; too small for additional building and the parking that would require.

    The Library presented these results in a series of three public meetings in May of 2018, with surveys to gather options for addressing the Library's facilities needs.  The clear message from public feedback was support for locating a new site for a new Library.  

    The 660 Spring Street site is 2.5 acres with ample space for improved and expanded parking, a 15,000 square foot Library building, outdoor activity spaces, and room to grow.

     

  • The current site cannot support a larger building, and adequate parking.  The site at 660 Spring Street is 2.5 acres, in contrast to the existing Library site which is only 0.66 acres.  The location at 660 Spring Street has space for ample, safer parking, a new Library building of 15,000 square feet (with room to expand that in the future if needed), and outdoor space for activities.

    The new site has the following advantages:

    • The new location is convenient to the middle of town, without being located in a high traffic area
    • Students can easily walk to the new site, from public and private schools
    • The Mullis Senior Center and Village at the Harbor are nearby and easily accessible

     

  • A new Library facility will give our community:

    • The technology infrastructure to support the growing demand for public computer use, and support services.
    • Well equipped large and small meeting spaces, which are a recognized need in our community.
    • Ample, dedicated spaces for children, teens, and adults, including their specific collections as well as activities.
    • Enough space for seating in quiet areas for reading and study, which is not available today either in the Library, or elsewhere in our community.  
    • Outdoor spaces for Library programming and use -- all outdoor programs must be conducted offsite today.
    • Expanded, safe parking -- a major problem at the current Library facility.
    • Ample space for staff to efficiently process collections and perform their duties.

     

    A new facility will also allow the Library to avoid the ever-increasing cost of maintaining an aging building, which has become a serious concern in recent years.  Every dollar the Library spends from the operations budget on drainage, leaks, and problems with the existing building are dollars that are not spent on services for the community.

    A new Library facility will be energy efficient and designed for the way this community uses its library in the 21st century, and will grow with this community for years to come.

     

  • The project to build a new library at 660 Spring Street has a total budget of $20 million, which includes:

    • $14.5 million for construction, site work, and furnishings
    • Repayment of the limited general obligation bond for acquiring the site in 2020 (approximately $2.075 million)
    • $3.4 million for architecture and construction management

     

    Project funding will come from three sources:

    • A $12 million voter-approved bond.  The bonds will carry a 20 year term
    • The Library has applied for a $2 million grant and will apply for additional grant funds
    • The remaining approximately $6 million will be raised from private donors in a capital fundraising campaign, now underway

     

  • The simple answer is that public construction is more expensive than private.  A new library building must meet current building codes for public facilities, including ADA accessibility.  As a public entity, the Library must pay prevailing wages for construction, following state law.  

    In addition, in recent years there have been significant increases to costs for building materials including lumber, metals, concrete, and electrical equipment.  Even if the rate of inflation eases before construction begins, it is unlikely that the cost of construction will go back down to the levels seen in years past.  

     

  • This will vary based on assessed value.  The estimated annual cost to property owners will be $88/year for a $500K home, $132/year for a $750K home, and $176/year for a $1 million home.

  • Come to the library and learn more, use the tools on this website to pledge your support, and find out all the ways you can help. There will be volunteer opportunities this year and during next year's design process.  You can help by:

    • Reaching out to friends and neighbors here on San Juan Island
    • Sharing information and news about the campaign on social media
    • Speaking to your community or professional organization and raising awareness of the project
    • Make reminder calls to friends and neighbors before the election
    • Host a sign in your window or yard indicating your support
    • Adding your name to our list of pledged supporters, both on the website and in the newspaper
    • Sign up to get updates and news between now and November!

     

    Join the campaign list and get updates!

  • Prior to the Library District purchasing the site at 660 Spring Street, there were several possible buyers, but none of their plans came to fruition. At the time that the Library District purchased the property in 2020, there were no active efforts to purchase the property for an affordable housing project or any other use, although there had been several failed attempts prior to the Library’s acquisition.

    The existing facilities on site are difficult for any purchaser to renovate and bring up to code, whether the purpose is affordable housing or a Library, which is why the Library's plan has always involved demolishing the building and constructing a new building which meets current code and building requirements. The Library's facilities assessment, conducted by professional architects and engineers, determined that the existing facility contained asbestos and would need an additional $3 million to bring it up to code over the cost of a new facility. The January 2022 freeze made the situation worse with a water leak and damage to the building, which has now been emptied and gutted in preparation for demolition and Library construction.  Any attempt to use the building -- whether for the Library or another use -- would face the same need to remove and replace the building. 

  • While the Library cannot itself provide housing given State law, it provides essential services which provide vital help to low and moderate income families. The library building is a haven for kids homeschooling and after school, which is a key service given the cost of child care. Children's programs from early literacy for toddlers through teens engage young people.  Storytimes and other children's programs promote positive social behavior and help create community.  The Library's collection of books, movies and games supports parents in parenting skills, entertaining kids, and enriching the minds of all. The Spring Street site will allow young people to get outdoors at the Library. As a community hub for gathering and recreation, the Library is like an extension of the living room.

    Library services support low and moderate income adults in a myriad of ways, through help with resume writing, the ability to use computers and borrow Internet hot spots, employment searching and testing, to income tax preparation, referral to appropriate social services, the Library helps make this a livable community for those without a lot of financial resources. Finally, the Library took over hosting English as a second language courses when Skagit Valley College was unable to continue supporting the program, at first through donated funds and now through the Library's own budget with supporting grants through the SJI Community Foundation.

    In many ways, the Library offers an essential service, despite a lack of space for doing so. The new site on Spring Street will directly support all of the ways that the Library provides material assistance to those in our community who are in need.

  • First, affordable housing and an expanded library serve the same island families in different ways. Limited income presents many challenges, and housing is an important one. But families also need youth programs in safe spaces when school isn't in session, free access to technology and technology instruction (computers, wifi, hotspots, the internet), and a space to hang out that’s just for fun. The library fills those needs with no cost of admission and is available 6 days a week.

    At the same time, we're excited to see affordable housing grow as the town and county continue to design and implement plans to address that unique challenge. Our initiatives work beautifully together, just as the library works closely with our local schools, the family resource center, senior services, and many other partners in the community serving island families. Our efforts make it more affordable for families to live on this beautiful island.