Whatcom County Council allocates $315,000 in ARPA funding to support Birch Bay Vogt Library Express

Following successful outreach by Friends of the Birch Bay Library volunteers, the Whatcom County Council has allocated $315,000 to support construction of the Birch Bay Vogt Library Express. The funding was included in County Executive Satpal Sidhu’s recommendations for the county’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) expenditures and agreed to by the council. The ARPA funds will be combined with a $2 million grant from the State of Washington and private donations to create a 1,700-square-foot library express within the existing structure of the Vogt home at 7948 Birch Bay Drive and for public use of the surrounding property.  

“We are beyond excited and grateful for the county’s support,” says Friends of the Birch Bay Library President Dianne Marrs-Smith. “Having the Whatcom County Council give financial support to our library project is amazing and a bit overwhelming. I want to especially thank Councilmember Kaylee Galloway, who was instrumental in prioritizing the request; Executive Sidhu, who has consistently supported the idea of a public library for Birch Bay; and Friends of the Birch Bay Library Director Doralee Booth, who identified the opportunity and advocated for the funds on behalf of our community.” 

With the new funds allocated by the county council, the Birch Bay Vogt Library Express has reached its initial fundraising goal. Whatcom County Library System (WCLS) staff are reviewing proposals from architectural firms for the design and construction of the project. A contractor will be selected, and the construction timeline will be developed in 2024.

Expenses include property purchase, a new foundation, parking expansion, full interior renovation, roof repairs, improved weather-proof windows and exterior cladding, ADA and public safety upgrades, and archeological preservation. Public spaces will be on the first floor and porch of the home and the surrounding property. Staff workspaces and storage will be on the second floor; public access to the second floor isn’t possible due to accessibility and safety requirements.  Friends of the Birch Bay Library continue to fundraise to cover unexpected project costs or enhancements. 

The project is called a library express because of its size and its unique attributes, including after-hours access with a library card for pick up of library materials and a curated collection of library materials sized to the space. Once the library opens, staff will be on site at hours yet to be determined to provide services, including events, reading recommendations, and assistance with research, technology and job skills. The WCLS Bookmobile currently provides library services to Birch Bay, visiting the community 3-7 p.m. each Wednesday. Birch Bay residents with library cards also have access to the library system’s digital resources.  

“Public libraries are the heart of a community where residents come together to learn, socialize, meet, do business and educate their children,” says Friends volunteer Doralee Booth, who has spent summer vacations in Birch Bay all her life and has owned a cottage there for 50 years.  “We had a dream to build a library for Birch Bay, and I’m thrilled to know our county council believes in our dream. I know our library will help the residents of Birch Bay — people of all ages — to grow as individuals and to thrive as a community. I consider the library one of the greatest legacies we can build for future generations who live in this beautiful place.” 

“We are thrilled to begin formal planning and construction of this long-awaited library for the county’s fourth-largest population center,” says WCLS Executive Director Christine Perkins. “Libraries are built when community members identify the need and advocate for their dream. Thank you to the amazing volunteers with Friends of the Birch Bay Library who have held on to their dream for so many years. I am grateful they’ve seen their vision realized and honored to provide enhanced library services to the Birch Bay community.” 

To learn more about the Birch Bay Vogt Library Express, visit wcls.org/birch-bay