If funding plans remain intact, the peninsula’s busiest library is getting some relief — in the form of a multi-million-dollar expansion.
Officials with the North Olympic Library System are keeping their collective eye on House Bill 1080, legislation that earmarks $6.5 billion in new capital projects in the 2021-2023 fiscal biennium.
In October 2020, library officials were notified that its application was selected as a recommended project and was ranked fifth out of 33 applications, with recommendation for full funding of the project, said NOLS executive director Noah Glaude said.
“We’re feeling good about that (ranking); we feel the need has been demonstrated for quite some time,” Glaude said this week.
If passed, the legislation would help fund significant upgrades at the Sequim Library, including: additional square footage for adequate spacing of public seating, computers and shelving; ADA-accessible bathrooms for the public and staff; expanded meeting room space with improved emergency exits, and additional staff work area, including individual offices, storage and more.
“It’s still a little more compact than what we wre aiming for before (but) we’re able to address all the critical pieces,” Glaude said.
For the better part of 20 years, NOLS officials have been trying to mitigate the increased usage of the library at 630 N. Sequim Ave.
Library officials in 2018 brought a bond proposal to voters a $13.4 million proposal to replace the library with a larger facility to meet the growing use of the facility. And while voters did approve the formation of a separate library taxing district at the same time, community support for the expansion itself fell just short, garnering 58.5 percent of the required 60 percent supermajority required for passage.
Glaude calls the newer plan “significantly smaller” than the 2018 bond plans based simply on the concept of adding on to the existing structure rather than the proposal to tear down the building build anew.
“The existing building definitely has some challenges, such as fire lane access; it’s such a narrow (piece of property),” Glaude said.
“(But) we’re are able to create more meeting space, space for students to study or to tutor, increase the number of computers available.”
After the COVID-19 outbreak led NOLS to close its facilities to the public last spring, the library system began offering remote services and online resources, and curbside library service began in June 2020. The 5,700-square-foot Sequim Library became NOLS’ busiest branch, receiving 26 percent more patron visits between June and December 2020 than the 30,000-square-foot main NOLS branch in Port Angeles.
The Sequim branch was too small and outdated to serve the growing population even before the COVID outbreak, NOLS officials said. With the public allowed back into facilities, visitors to the Sequim branch are currently limited to 15 minutes because of space issues — patrons at all other NOLS branches are allowed 30 minutes — and the public meeting room in Sequim is now being used as a staff work room.
Construction in 2022
If funded, actual construction on the Sequim Library would probably not take place until 2022, Glaude said. Before then, two requests for qualifications (RFQs) would go out — one for architectural designs, a second for the construction itself — and a proverbial ground-breaking possibly by June 2022.
Library officials would likely shift services to an alternate site for between nine and 12 months, Glaude said, and be back up and running by mid-2023.
“What we’ve heard in the past is that it’s way easier empty the building (for the construction’s duration,” Glaude said.
Fortunately, he said, the library system has some recent experience in this: in 2012, NOLS did a complete renovation of the Forks branch and moved the library off-site.
Earlier this month NOLS’ board of trustees approved funding for book-mobile, and Glaude said that while the vehicle — targeted to begin service in early 2022 ‚ is projected to service the county’s West End, it could be used to deliver services to areas such as Diamond Point and Agenw if neeeded.
The Library Capital Improvement Program was created by the Legislature in 2019 to help libraries to acquire, construct or rehabilitate their facilities.
The maximum grant amount to any one entity can’t exceed $2 million and a 50 percent match of the total project cost required. NOLS has the grant’s required matching funds in capital reserve.
Priority is given to library facilities located in distressed or rural areas; Clallam County is both, NOLS officials note.
In June 2020, NOLS applied for the Library Capital Improvement Program Grant administered by the Washington State Department of Commerce.
NOLS has the grant’s required matching funds in Capital Reserve. Priority is given to library facilities located in distressed or rural areas; Clallam County is both.
The grant allocation must be approved during the current 2021 Washington State Legislative session, he said.
NOLS’ $2 million proposal and one from the Spokane County Library District, also listed at $2 million, top the list of 15 library grants being considered in HB 1080.
Glaude said library representatives feel confident the funding will come through, with state representatives Mike Chapman and Steve Tharinger and state senator Kevin Van DeWege showing support for the library’s bond issue in 2018.
For more information about the Sequim Library Project, including conceptual plans and drawings and the project’s history, see nols.org/sequimlibraryproject.