Design work is now underway for an interior remodel of the main floor of the Central Library, featuring updates that will improve public spaces and incorporate operational efficiencies.
Thanks to capital investments supported by Mayor Kelli Linville and the City Council in the 2019-2020 biennial budget, the Bellingham Public Library and the Public Works department are teaming up to remodel the main floor of the popular and well-used Central Library.
The design phase is underway through Fall 2019, with construction budgeted and scheduled in 2020. Approximately $1.6 million is budgeted for the project.
The planned work is in the building’s interior, on the nearly 20,000 square-foot main floor where adult and teen collections and services are located. Changes will include providing additional public spaces and a more open concept, incorporating new, more efficient book-handling technologies, and adding public restrooms – all geared to improve patrons’ use of this busy facility.
The Central Library downtown is the largest Bellingham library branch as well as the city library’s administrative and operations center, all housed in a 1950s-era building that saw its last major renovation in 1985. The downtown branch welcomed about 630,000 visits last year (not including branch library visitors), with Central Library patrons borrowing 1.2 million items and attending more than 1,000 programs.
Construction is budgeted for 2020. The design phase is underway during Fall 2019, which will be followed by bidding for the construction phase. We will have a more detailed timeline after a contractor is hired and a scope of work is negotiated for the construction.
Will the Central Library be closed during construction?
We are making plans carefully so that impacts to Central Library patrons are minimized. We will need to close off portions of the building during construction, and we may need to close entirely for a short period of time, or temporarily relocate services. These decisions will be made once we have a set timeline and scope of work, and will be communicated to patrons well in advance.
What specific changes are planned?
Plans for the interior remodel of the main floor of the Central Library are being drafted to include the following key additions:
Installation of two public restrooms;
Removal of some interior walls to improve traffic flow and sight lines;
Additional public seating and study rooms;
Reconfigured spaces to incorporate an automated system that checks in and sorts books and other materials. This new technology will help us handle the more than 1.6 million items that pass through the Central Library each year.
Will public parking be impacted during construction?
Most of the construction is on the interior of the building. While construction-related staging and deliveries may impact parking, we will preserve as much public parking as possible and expect parking impacts to be minimal.
What happened to plans to build a new Central Library?
City and library leaders have long recognized Central Library services have outgrown the building’s current space and configuration. Plans more than a decade ago envisioned seeking public support to construct a new Central Library downtown. Since then, community economic realities and commitments to making effective use of existing buildings and properties caused city and library leaders to pursue updating rather than replacing the Central Library. Recent studies have determined that the Central Library building is sound and able to be successfully remodeled and/or expanded. A multi-phase approach is outlined in an assessment completed in 2018 by RMC Architects. Library leaders expect to pursue additional building improvements, and possible expansion, over several budget cycles.