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Birch Bay library looks like it will be built as a “library express”

Residence at 7948 Birch Bay Drive after being purchased by the Whatcom County Library System. Source: WCLS

BLAINE, Wash. — A residence on Birch Bay Drive that was sold to the Whatcom County Library System (WCLS) in 2017 may soon be renovated to serve as a “library express” according to an announcement from the WCLS today, April 25th.

WCLS and volunteers had failed to get voter support in 2021 and 2022 for creation of a taxing district that would have levied property taxes to pay for up to $4,500,000 in general obligation 20-year bonds to build a 7,600-square-foot full-service branch on the site. At the time, a state grant had been designated to partially cover the cost.

After failing to get the required supermajority 60% voter support, WCLS staff sought a reallocation of the grant, this time to create a 1,700-square-foot library express. Initially denied in 2022, the decision was recently reversed according to today’s announcement. The reversal followed support expressed by community members, WCLS staff and Whatcom County legislators.

Other WCLS Library Express locations are located at Northwest Drive in Bellingham and in Point Roberts and Sumas. The WCLS bookmobile currently serves Birch Bay.

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The $2 million grant covers most of the costs to renovate the home and property as a library and community gathering spot. Previous fundraising will also contribute to the total needed. Volunteers with Friends of Birch Bay Library will host fundraisers and reach out to community organizations and individuals to raise the remaining $300,000. WCLS staff are project managers. If fully funded, construction may begin as early as spring 2024.  

Expenses include property purchase, a new foundation, parking expansion, full interior renovation, roof repairs, improved weather-proof windows and exterior cladding, ADA and public safety upgrades, and archeological preservation. Public spaces will be on the first floor and porch of the home and the surrounding property. Staff workspaces and storage will be on the second floor; public access to the second floor isn’t possible due to accessibility and safety requirements. 

The library’s official name will be the Birch Bay Vogt Library Express in honor of the family who homesteaded this area and their descendants who sold the property to the Whatcom County Library System. 

If developed, the Birch Bay Vogt Library Express will have a small collection of library materials, after-hours hold pick up, public computers and meeting space. Library patrons will also be able to read on the seaside porch and gather for library programs on the lawn.    Whatcom County Library System (April 25, 2023)

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