log in
contact us

the next chapter

orcas island library expansion project

the need for a library expansion

In 1991, we raised money to build the current, beautiful building. This much-loved library serves more than 2500 Islanders of all ages each week. But our library has outgrown its space. We need more room for people, books, and technology.

Since 1995:

  • The number of library cards has increased 86%, to nearly 6000.
  • Our library collection has increased 45%, to nearly 45,000 items, and our annual checkouts have increased by about 50%.
  • The on-site programs and classes patrons enjoy number more than 250 annually, attended by more than 4300.
  • Our library is open 30% more hours than in 1995. And our annual visits have increased by 80% in the last ten years alone!
  • In response to requests for access to computers, the library has added eleven computers, but the computers have created congestion in the center aisle.
  • Did you know that 80% of Americans connect to the internet, over half of them daily? Limited people and technology space means that those who want internet (wifi) connection must use the parking lot, outside benches, lobby, meeting room, and quiet reading area to connect to the wifi.
  • Our quiet reading area is not very quiet, and it is much too small!
  • Our Young Adult section is only 126 square feet, inadequate to meet the needs our young adult patrons.
  • Patrons have difficulty finding spaces for studying, tutoring, and working in small groups.

Patrons consistently ask for more materials, but there is no room. For every book that comes in, one must go out. Ouch!

the planned response: Create more room for learning and fun!

Through surveys and focus groups, users have asked for technologically sophisticated, energy-efficient spaces that harmonize with the existing facility, meet current and future needs, and minimally disrupt library services during construction.

The expansion will:

  • create more room for people, books, and technology
  • increase space for the Young Adult section
  • increase space for laptop and public computers users
  • relocate computers from the center aisle
  • add more worktables
  • create quiet reading areas
  • create up to four small-group study and meeting rooms
  • improve shelving
  • provide an additional family-friendly restroom
  • increase space for magazines and newspapers
  • create an additional office and storage space
  • create more communal spaces, including where Orcas Island community organizations can meet with the public

about the library

The Orcas Island Public Library is the social, cultural, intellectual hub of Orcas Island. Open seven days per week, it serves as the sole democratic, nonpartisan, free institution available to all under one roof. The Library is both a trusted source of information and a safe place. It empowers users to be change agents in your lives. It allows users to be more meaningfully engaged in the community, and supports Islanders in staying on Orcas Island to raise their families and age gracefully.

A Bit of History

Orcas Islanders love books! In 1949 the community began collecting and sharing books in post offices and stores. When the number of books quickly grew too large, they built a library on Main Street, raising money through teas, hobby shows, donations, and the very first Library Fair in 1956. The Main Street Library was dedicated in 1956, but thirty years later the community had outgrown that space, too. So in 1987, Islanders approved the formation of a tax-supported library district. And in 1991, the current Rose Street property was purchased, and fundraising began to build the library building, which was dedicated in February, 1993.

Since then:

  • The Library has ranked in the top five public libraries in Washington, per capita, for checkouts, cardholders, open hours, visits, and collection size for the past several years. It also recently ranked first in the state for volunteer hours per capita.
  • The Library is a leader in information-sharing, literacy, and early-learning programs that prepare children for school.
  • Although the Library sees much use by adults, children account for more than a quarter of the checkouts, and for a similar proportion of programs.
  • Through its partnerships, the Library offers direct services to the Senior Center and the Longhouse, as well as to all schools and preschools, including visits by librarians to those locations.
  • The Library collaborates on a frequent basis with island nonprofits, including the Funhouse Commons and the Orcas Island Community Foundation, to offer literacy and other services and programs.
  • The Library offers reciprocal library cards with the Lopez Island and San Juan Island libraries.

preliminary & conceptual drawings

These architect's drawings represent concepts and ideas based on the needs of the Orcas Island Library and the visions of the Board of Trustees, the Library's staff, and interviews with patrons; they do not signify any finality in the design of the expansion.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the Orcas Island Library Building going to be expanded?

It is the intent of the Orcas Island Library District Board of Trustees that, within funding available and achievable, the Library will meet the library service needs of our community. In order to do that, the Board considers physical facilities and equipment, staffing, and library programs. It is the view of the Board, supported by a significant body of evidence, that the current OIPL facility lacks sufficient space to meet the demands placed on it, both now and for the future. The Board is exploring options for an expansion project that will meet current needs and allow the Library to meet emerging needs.

When will the expansion occur?

The expansion will occur as soon as possible consistent with the Board's desire to fully explore the views of the Orcas Island community, raise private funds for the project, create a construction plan that harmonizes with the existing facility and minimizes disruption to existing Library functions.

Where will the money for the project come from and how much will it cost?

As part of its budgeting process, the Board has accumulated a small capital improvements fund with the County and has maintained donations received for building projects through the Orcas Island Community Foundation. In addition, the Friends of the Orcas Island Library have accumulated a fund intended for building improvements. Together these already existing funds amount to approximately $600,000. Also the Friends were recently very fortunate to receive a bequest from Bob Henigson through the Robert and Phyllis Henigson Trust totaling more than $1 million, much of which can be applied toward this project. In addition, the Library has received a $1.4 million capital funds allocation from the State of Washington in the 2016-17 biennial budget, benefiting from the leadership of District 40 Senator Kevin Ranker.

Based on our planning thus far, the Library needs to expand by about 5000 square feet. Current estimates for hard and soft construction costs show an overall project cost of a bit more than $3 million, depending on such considerations as site development and the cost of renovating and reuse of the existing space.

What would change in the Library?

With the expansion envisioned above, the Library would increase space for the young adult section, increase space allocated to computer workstations (and relocate the computers currently in the center aisle of the main library), increase worktable space, create quiet reading areas, create up to four small group study and meeting rooms, improve shelving, provide one or more additional restrooms, increase magazine space, and create additional office and storage space. Depending on the ultimate size of the project, the Board hopes to increase the size of the children's area and provide rooms where other Orcas Island service organizations can interact with the public.

How can community members get involved?

There will be numerous opportunities for members of the public to participate in the process. The Board intends to conduct a series of public meetings, which will be announced on the Library website and in local news venues to allow public comment and offer suggestions. Throughout the process, the Library will continue to develop and strengthen its partnerships with island organizations. A number of project committees are also being formed to explore various aspects of the project and make recommendations to the Board. Community members will be encouraged to volunteer for these committees as they will be crucial to informed decisions about the project, public outreach, and programming.

Who will be asked for money?

The Board desires that all members of our community be involved in the project in whatever ways they can. For some, that may mean attending meetings, for others it may mean making a significant monetary investment in the library. All donations or contributions of whatever size will be gratefully received and will be put directly toward the goals outlined above. Methods for supporting the project are shown in the sidebar.

Will the project result in higher taxes?

The Board does not anticipate pursuing additional tax revenues for the construction project. However, it will be necessary at some point in the future to seek additional tax revenue to operate and maintain the Library, even in the current facility.

How can one get additional information about the project?

The five Library Trustees and the Library Director are available to meet with community members, hold public meetings, and respond to invitations to meet with community groups and organizations throughout the process. Additionally, anyone can write or email questions and comments to the Board or Library Director at pheikkinen@orcaslibrary.org.

Additional information can be found in these downloadable documents.

What will the expansion cost?

Current estimates show the building expansion costing approximately $ 3.2 Million.

Who will pay for the project?

The project will be paid for by private donations -- large and small. And we were fortunate to receive a $1.4 million capital fund allocation from the State of Washington in the 2016-17 biennial budget.

We are seeking opportunities for the expansion to serve as a pilot or model building project for innovations in energy efficiency, such as lighting, heating and air conditioning.

How much money have you already raised?

We have raised $2.9 million for far from private donations and a State of Washington capital fund allocation.

What is the estimated Increase in operating costs?

The estimates below presume a building addition of about 5000 sf external dimensions. Depending on staffing needs, we estimate an annual increase between $45,000 and $70,000. This will include such elements as staffing, maintenance for building and grounds, insurance, utilities, and repairs.