According to the San Juan Island Library Board and staff, more building space is long overdue and the fine could be fewer services.
It’s been 24 years since the San Juan Island Library last expanded, and the building has reached capacity.
“We have absolutely maxed out what we can do there,” said San Juan Island Library Board member Lynn Weber-Roochvarg. “We physically don’t have enough square footage.”
The library staff and board held three public meetings on Sunday, May 20, and Monday, May 21, to share possible plans to expand the library to add more services and space, or leave the space as is and reduce offerings.
During the three days of open houses, 85 attended and commented on critical issues at the current facility and options they’d like to see in the future.
At the 7 p.m., May 20 meeting, most attendees noted that the most critical problem was the lack of room to increase collections for items like books, audiobooks and DVDs. Enlarging current collections was also the most requested suggestion.
Weber-Roochvarg explained that when new items are added to the library space, old materials have to be taken away to make room, keeping the library’s current supply at a standstill.
“The collections can’t grow,” she said.
Another problem noted by May 20 attendees included not having enough workspaces, including to use equipment like computers and printers.
Most attendees at that open house also suggested expanding the parking lot and public meeting room.
Board member Barry Jacobson said staff currently have to reject some meeting room reservations, because of increased demand. He also noted that several meetings held in the library lobby, in front of the fireplace, have reached the maximum amount allowed in the building by the fire code.
If the current 9,200-square-foot building remains in use, the staff and board project that they will have to cap program attendance, reduce collection sizes and decrease the use of library-owned computers, among other possible service reductions.
Laurie Orton, director of the library, said there are no current plans to lessen services, as staff is waiting for direction on the possible growth.
Two expansion options, which include additional parking, were presented at the meeting. Both options use land next to the building, currently owned by San Juan County Public Works. When looking at the front of the library, the possible additional property is to the right. The land is not currently for sale, but San Juan Island Library Board member Mark Madsen said he spoke with county staff about possibly buying it.
One option would add up to 9,300 square feet to the building by expanding it into the lot, costing roughly $7.8 million.
The other would create an entirely new building, up to 18,500 square feet, on the next-door lot for roughly $8.1 million. Staff and the board would then sell the current library facility.
Funds, said Madsen, could be collected from public grants, private fundraising and a possible bond issue. He added that these conceptual designs show the maximum buildout, but exact square footage and price would be determined in the next phase.
The board will look at the public’s responses at their next meeting at 3 p.m., Tuesday, June 12, at the library, as well as choose an expansion option from the conceptual designs.
The current library building was constructed in 1970 and was expanded in 1988 and 1994 and renovated in 2004. Since 2016, the library receives on average about 9,000 visitors a month.