By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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Paula Barnes, director of the North Olympic Library System, said the board could decide as soon as its next meeting March 27 whether it will move forward with the plan, which would require a voter-approved construction bond.
No amount has been proposed for the bond. No date has been proposed for the measure to go on the ballot.
“I have a feeling they want to make a decision soon and move ahead on this,” Barnes said. “I think they really want to capture the momentum we have.”
The North Olympic Library System — which oversees public libraries in Sequim, Port Angeles, Forks and Clallam Bay — received a report on a feasibility study undertaken by SHKS Architects of Seattle at its board of directors meeting Feb. 27.
Kevin Kane with SHKS recommended that the library be expanded from its current size of 6,000 square feet to 17,150 square feet to accommodate future use, based on its usage and industry standards for space.
The current library was built in 1983 and renovated in 2009.
Barnes said the surprising part of the SHKS report was that the building could be remodeled and expanded on the library's current lot, a long, narrow property at 630 N. Sequim Ave.
“Learning that we would be able to put a building on the existing lot was a good surprise,” said Barnes, who announced earlier this year that she plans to retire in July.
“Because I don't know that we could do this if we had to buy another piece of ground.”
The existing library and parking lot and the lot behind the Sequim branch where the Friends of the Library operate their monthly book sale and the Summer Reading Program are the only property the library owns in Sequim.
“The existing site will accommodate a 17,150-square-foot library with 58 code-required parking spaces,” Kane wrote in his report.
The library would even have enough room to expand from that size building, the report said.
In 2013, patrons of the Sequim branch checked out 395,419 items from the library's collection, about 40 percent of the library system's overall circulation. That trails only the Port Angeles Library, which is nearly three times larger than the Sequim branch.
In its first year of 1982, users circulated 114,933 items.
Kane's report found the existing site provides about two-tenths of a square foot for each of the 29,728 people within its service area, eyed as the Sequim School District.
Other rural libraries currently remodeling buildings are using size standards of half a square foot in planning.
Kane's study expected the population of the Sequim Library's service area to grow to 34,300 over the next 30 years.
Apart from its books, videos and reference materials, another function of the library, as noted in community surveys SHKS and the library undertook last summer, was as a community meeting area.
“The library in all the NOLS communities is becoming this really important role as this third space,” Barnes said
Programs are held in the library almost daily.
Barnes also noted that the new building would have to be built with the ability to react to different needs of the community and of changing technologies.
“The building would need to be highly adaptable and flexible,” she said. “Because you never know what the needs are going to be in five, 10, 20 years.”
If the board opts to go ahead with the remodel, it would need to ask voters to approve a construction bond to fund it, Barnes said.
“There would definitely have to be some combination of a bond issue and a capital campaign to get it done,” she said.
She previously had said the system likely would propose the creation of a Library Capital Facilities Area, likely following the boundaries of the Sequim School District, if it seeks voter support for the bonds.
The Forks Library was remodeled last year for $835,000. The bulk of those costs came from the library system's timber tax revenues, some of which could be used to fund the Sequim project.
“But that revenue doesn't come close to touching what we would need,” Barnes said.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.