Library expansion: what’s next | Guest column

by the ORCAS Library

Board of Trustees

Orcas Islanders love their beautiful public library as a center of equal access to information for all learners and a welcoming place for reflection, work or gathering with others. The Library Board of Trustees is proud to announce the formal kickoff of the expansion project: “Books and Beyond: The Next Chapter.”

Common themes surfaced from discussions with the community about the library: it’s too crowded; there aren’t enough computers or space to use one’s own computer; there aren’t enough quiet spaces for doing work; and we need more room for children and young adults. Clearly, growth in the array of library services, coupled with dramatic increases in usage, has the current facility straining at its seams.

Should we expand the library? We consulted with volunteers, met with stakeholders, took surveys, reviewed existing and desired programs, and examined other public Library expansions. We learned that the existing library was designed originally to be a 12,000-square-foot structure. Funding availability limited its size to half that.

We concluded the library has served our community remarkably well, but that current needs demand we fulfill that original dream by undertaking an expansion project to prepare for the next 20 years.

Our planned 5,000-square-foot expansion addresses pressing needs: more room for children and young adults, quiet reading and work space, small rooms for working and collaborating, more room for computers and multiple types of seating to work with one’s own computer, more room for gatherings, classes, lectures and library events, and additional book space with more accessible shelving. Naturally, we must maintain the aesthetics, high quality and attention to detail of our existing building.

Our efforts recently received a huge boost with a generous gift from Bob Henigson’s estate, State capital funds secured by Senator Kevin Ranker, significant pledges and gifts from several community benefactors and the Friends of the Orcas Island Library, and several other private donations. With generous contributions from our community and a state capital budget appropriation totaling $2.8 million so far – a substantial percentage of total projected capital needs – we have started the process to secure firm project costs.

We are getting close! In August, we are launching a community campaign to raise the remaining required funds. Moving forward now on pre-construction and permitting work means construction may begin as early as late Spring 2016.

Books and Beyond: The Next Chapter will have a booth at the upcoming Library Fair on Aug. 8. Members of the Library Board of Trustees will be on hand with conceptual models of the expansion to help you learn more about the project and answer your questions.

Stay tuned for more information about how you can help the library grow and adapt along with changing community needs.

You can also stay up-to-date by visiting our website,

Your views matter, so please share them by contacting our Library Director Phil Heikkinen, via email at, or by phone at 376-4985.