Library Building Project

Library Building Project

August 2021: Library Building Project Update

From Library Director Laurie Orton:
Building Project Costs
One question on peoples’ minds is the cost of the project. What follows is an explanation for what the existing feasibility cost projections really mean–and what they do not mean.
A “maximal feasibility study” was independently conducted in 2019. The purposed of such a study, along with the cost estimates calculated, is to understand the upper limit of what is feasible on the property–it is not an actual budget, or a design. We may not, for example, need as much building space as is feasible, and instead opt for more outdoor space and parking. Those kinds of choice will affect the overall cost for the project and have not been made yet.
The two costs presented for the maximum-sized building that is feasible on the property came to approximately $17.5 million if the building was demolished and we started fresh, and $20 million if the existing building was kept and renovated.
The current library plan is to demolish the existing building, thereby reducing costs by approximately $2.5 million. Furthermore, the library constructed on the site will be smaller than this maximal footprint, both to keep costs down, and because we want to ensure adequate parking, and create usable outdoor space for activities and programs. These and other cost-reduction measures will be considered as we move into the planning and design phase in order to align the final project with a manageable cost for the community.
We will pursue funding from different sources for the building project, including state and federal grants, public and private fundraising, and a community-voted bond.
Please consider donating to the library building project through the SJI Community Foundation’s link during the 2021 Fair (August 18 – 22). After the Fair, sue the Donate button on the Library Building Project webpage at It all about your new library!

September 2019: New Library Building Project Update

San Juan Island Library’s Board of Trustees has selected a preferred site on which to build a new library—the former Life Care Center property on Spring Street.
At their September 10th meeting, they reviewed cost estimates for building a new library on three different properties around the Town of Friday Harbor—the corner of Malcom and Argyle, the former Life Care Center, and County Public Works on Guard Street.
The Board concurred with recommendations from Allied8 Architecture and Design and O’Connor Construction Management, Inc. (OCMI) that the Life Care Center property offered the most benefits for the overall lowest costs. The Board will focus on this property during the next steps in the building process, beginning with funding development, and leading eventually to site acquisition.
The Board is holding a work session on project funding on Tuesday, October 1st, 2019 from 9 am to 5 pm at Friday Harbor Suites in the San Juan Room.  The public is invited to attend.


August 2019

UPDATE ON LIBRARY BUILDING PROJECT—Selecting a Site for the New Library


This past spring the Library Board of Trustees identified various properties inside the Town of Harbor, looking for large enough parcels on which to build a new Library.

From a list of nine locations, OCMI (owner’s representative for the project), did preliminary exploration, gathering information the Board could use to narrow down the list to three properties.

The final three sites selected were 1000 Guard St. (currently County Public Works), 600 Spring St. (formerly Life Care Center), and the corner of Malcom St. and Argyle Ave. (unoccupied).

In July the Library hired architectural firm Allied8 to conduct feasibility studies on all three sites.  On August 6th the firm presented their final results and conclusions at a public board meeting. The full interactive report is shared above, and details what was considered and how the sites compared to each other.

Allied8 concluded that they do not recommend Guard as a building site for the future library.

Conversely, they find “that both Spring and Malcom are acceptable building sites, but we find Spring to be more favorable.”

The Board of Trustees is set to discuss the report and review further cost estimates at their Tuesday, September 10th board meeting held at the Library at 3:00 pm.  This is an open public meeting with Public Access at the beginning.

To get involved, read the document, then attend the meeting to listen or to add your own comments.  The Board hopes to make a final decision on our preferred site at this meeting.

Thank you for your community input!

On June 12th, 2018, the library’s Board of Trustees moved to proceed with the goal of constructing a new library facility.

Since then, the Library has hired an Owner’s Representation for the project to start with site selection and conclude with a new building in 3-5 years.

An architectural firm will be hired to conduct  feasibility studies on a number of sites in and around town.  A site will likely be determined in 2019.  Site acquisition will follow.

Other activities over the next year will include exploring fundraising avenues in the community, and seeking other funding opportunities elsewhere.

Designing a new building will likely begin in 2020, and the community will be very much involved.

We are energized to embark on this exciting path towards a new, modern library for our community!

Principles Guiding Facilities Consideration

Results from our Community Meetings

June 2018 Community Meetings Feedback

Library Director Laurie Orton said, “It was pretty clear from the data collected that community members were most supportive of the option to build a new library.”  Of the 134 people who indicated their preferences at the open houses and in subsequent surveys, 75% chose a new building, versus 23% who chose expansion of the current structure.  “Taking into account the challenges posed by the current structure and that the cost for expanding and retrofitting an older building costs nearly as much as creating a new, carefully planned library from the ground up, it’s not surprising that people chose the new building option,” observed Orton.

The top three problems community members identified with the current building included inadequate and difficult parking, growth restrictions on the library’s various materials collections, and the need for larger meeting and program spaces for events, as attendance has outstripped capacity over the years.  Additional high priorities included a more energy efficient, cost-saving building infrastructure, improved areas for teens and children, and more quiet reading spaces and computers.

“We are excited about the possibilities of a new, modern library,” said Orton, “but we still have a long way to go on this project.”  Still remaining are site selection and acquisition, funding, design, and construction.  The community will be involved at every step of the process.

If you were unable to attend one of our open house meetings, please find the handouts and final feasibility report in our links on the top left.

Assessing Our Library Facilities Needs

When we ask library patrons what we could improve about our library’s facilities, the two most common answers are “more quiet space” and “parking.” In 2011, the Library surveyed the community in preparing our current Long Range Plan (for 2012-2017), and many respondents mentioned these and other facilities issues.

At the same time, the library district is facing increasing costs from building maintenance, given the age and construction of the building. We face major projects like roof replacement, improving site drainage, and ongoing efforts to keep the basement clear of water and mold.

As a result, the library district began a facilities assessment project, whose purpose is to:

  • Understand the community’s needs for library space
  • Understand the mechanical and maintenance issues associated with our current building and site
  • Outline the options available to the community for library facilities

Facilities Assessment Process

  • Beginning in 2015 the Board held four Special Work Session meetings open to the public to begin planning the process.
  • In 2016 the Board tested a community survey on three focus groups. The feedback suggested that we provide more information on the state of the building and its inherent capacity for change and growth.
  • In 2017 the Library hired SHKS Architects to carry out a facilities assessment and feasibility study.

Their results, with input from library staff, was presented at three community open houses in 2018:

                Sunday, May 20th from 3:00 – 5:00 PM

                Sunday, May 20th from 7:00 – 9:00 PM

                Monday, May 21st from 1:00 – 3:00 PM

For a full description of the entire process view our timeline.

Images from our Community Meetings

Minutes from Special Board Meetings, Work Sessions , and Public Forum Meetings about Library Facilities held by the San Juan Island Library Board of Trustees

Although specific issues are often discussed at the regular monthly Board of Trustees meetings (3 pm on the second Tuesday of each month, in the library meeting room), we also conduct special board meetings, dedicated work sessions, and public forum meetings. Any meeting we conduct is an open public meeting, which we advertise in the newspaper, and the public is welcome.

The notes and minutes from these meetings are kept along with the regular Board of Trustees meeting minutes located on our website. Additionally, we will post links here to all special meetings specifically about facilities assessment and future planning.