Bellingham Central Library at 210 Central Street is the largest of the city’s three sites, as well as the administrative and operational center of the library. The downtown branch received approximately 630,000 visits in 2019, with Central Library customers borrowing 1.2 million items and participating in more than 1,000 programs. All of this takes place in a 1950s building that saw its last major renovation in 1985.
Since July 13, Bellingham Public Library (BPL) and the Public Works Department have been working with Tiger Construction and RMC Architects to renovate the ground floor of the Central Library. The project is expected to be completed this spring.
The interior redevelopment of the ground floor is described in a evaluation of the Central Library carried out in 2018 by RMC Architects. Library executives expect this project to be the first of several sequential improvements to the existing building and site, including examining options to increase library space.
This project consists of redeveloping the ground floor of nearly 20,000 square feet where the collections and services for adults and adolescents are located. The changes will include improvements to public seating and the addition of study rooms, the conversion of lighting to LED technology, the incorporation of more efficient book management systems, the addition of two public washrooms and the provision of additional open spaces and a more open concept.
Rick Osen, who has served on the BPL board since 2015, says the issue of improving and expanding the library’s facilities has been on the library board’s agenda since 2015. less than 15 years old.
“The original 1950s building underwent a modest expansion and modernization in 1985,” he says. “Other than a few basic upgrades, nothing substantial has been done at the Central Library over the past 35 years.
In 2008, the library board, together with the library administration, released a commissioned plan for a new library building. But the price tag, combined with that year’s recession, put the project on the table.
Over the next few years, says Osen, the concept of a new building did not take any new roots. More recently, the board of directors suggested looking at the possible improvement and expansion of the existing facility. For reasons of budgetary feasibility, the board decided to take a phased approach to achieve these goals, concentrating the first phase on the ground floor of the central library.
The renovations are only on the ground floor, not the lower floor where the children’s library and large meeting room are located, says library director Rebecca Judd, but we hope to redevelop the lower floor. in the future.
Judd says the way people use the library today is different from what it was in 1950 or 1985.
“Today, people bring their many digital devices with them and need a place to plug them in. We have significantly increased the electrical outlets and capacity on the north side of the building, near the large picture windows. We upgraded the seating in this area with new furniture and furnishings to create a more welcoming space, and we replaced the glass in the windows facing the lawn for a better view.
They also created a more welcoming teen space in the northeast corner of the ground floor, with a fun design, special lights, and a colorful rug.
“The public will be so happy and surprised when we can finally reopen the Central Library – it’s fresh and new,” said Annette Bagley, Community Relations Manager for BPL.
Library staff have been dedicated throughout the pandemic to continue providing materials through the curbside collection service.
“This has been a particularly important task while working around the renovation construction, as access to the stacks of books on the ground floor is limited,” Bagley continues. “The whole basement was turned into a Santa’s workshop-style assembly line made up of offices six feet apart, plexiglass barriers, and PPE staff to make it all happen.”
The library’s curbside collection services – which were launched in March 2020 to make library materials available while the library is closed to patrons due to COVID-19 restrictions – will continue with minimal disruption during the project. Patrons can request library materials and pick up these items by following the instructions on the library’s website at www.bellinghampubliclibrary.org/curbside.
Library users may see small impacts on parking around the library from staging and construction-related deliveries. All BPL sites are currently closed to visitors, with the reopening of facilities occurring in later phases of the governor’s tenure Safe start-up plan.
“Throughout the pandemic, our library staff continued to innovate to provide the best possible service,” said Judd. “At the end of December, we added the myLIBRO app to our services, which allows customers to schedule curbside pickups via their mobile devices. Before the pandemic, our children’s library offered 19 hours of storytelling per week. ”
During the pandemic, children’s librarians have switched to virtual storytelling hours and continue to interact with customers on a weekly basis through YouTube and Zoom.
During this time, staff answer up to 100 help desk calls per day. “Since people can’t come to the library to ask questions,” Judd continues, “the help desk phones have been a vital service for many. ”
One of the challenges created by the renovation is that library staff only have access to the ground floor for a few hours a day to pull chocks and put materials on the stacks of books. The collections on the ground floor are currently covered with plastic.
“The impact of the physical remodeling with new paint, carpet, furniture and furnishings will be an emotional boost to our community, demonstrating the great value we place on reading and learning.” , said Judd. “This boost is particularly important as we emerge from this difficult pandemic. ”
For an overview of the renovation and a guided tour with Library Director Rebecca Judd, visit https://www.bellinghampubliclibrary.org/news/bellingham-central-library-main-floor-remodel-underway.
To learn more about this project, visit Web page on the renovation of the ground floor of the central library or contact the library management at 360. 778.7323 or via Ask us! online form.