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orcas island library expansion project

❖ Weekly Project Updates ❖

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

 Levy Lid Lift Passes
64.49% of voters say "yes" to Library expansion

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Orcas Island Library Building Expansion and Levy Lid Lift: An Overview

September 6, 2016

History: The Orcas Island Public Library (OIPL) has served the community in one form or another for 60 years. Housed in various locations in Eastsound as a volunteer association, it became a library district in 1987, and then opened its present location in 1993. As originally envisioned, the OIPL building was a facility of 12,500 sf. Due to funding limitations, the facility was redesigned and a library of approximately 6000 sf was built. The initial Library District property tax levy was set at $.50 per $1000 of assessed property valuation (the maximum allowed under State law). As a result of State Initiative 747, which introduced a 1% limit to annual tax revenue increases, Library District revenues have not kept pace with inflation. There has been no increase in the District levy since the initial levy was set in 1987. The combination of property revaluations and the implementation of I-747 has reduced the effective levy rate to $.303 per $1000 of assessed value for 2016.

Current Situation: Since construction of the current facility, several Library Boards have considered expanding the OIPL to bring it closer to the originally programmed space. In each case economic factors combined to make the project infeasible. In 2013, the Board of Trustees conducted several surveys of the community, conducted public forums, and gathered the opinions of individuals, island organizations and businesses. The near-universal response was that the Library is too small to meet the community’s needs. Specifically cited were the Children’s and Young Adult areas, insufficient meeting spaces and spaces for working and quiet reading, too few computer workstations available for patrons (also inconveniently located in the center aisle) and the demand for a larger collection. The survey data clearly indicated that the community is very proud of the current Library building and that any expansion should harmonize with the existing structure. In 2014, based on this community input and its assessment of the Library’s capabilities, the Board of Trustees committed to pursuing an expansion project. Central to the Trustees’ decision was maximizing funding from sources other than local property tax revenues. To that end, the Board began accumulating funds for the project. Accumulated capital improvement funds on hand under OICF management were approximately $200,000. The Friends of the OIPL pledged $100,000. State Senator Kevin Ranker secured a State appropriation of $1.4 Million. The Bob and Phyllis Henigson Living Trust contributed another $1.4 Million from the estate of Mr. Henigson, a former Library Trustee whose enthusiasm for the Library was well known. Approximately $400,000 was raised through other private donations.

In 2015, the Board set a preliminary budget of $3.5 million and hired a project manager. The Board worked with her to select an architectural firm to design an expansion of approximately 6000 sf. After a competitive process, HKP Architects of Mt. Vernon, Washington was selected. HKP and the Library’s Design Committee worked very hard to create a design that enhanced and complemented the existing structure. Subsequently, the cost to build the preliminary design was independently estimated at $4.1 million overall. The Design Committee, together with the project manager, the architects and the Library staff made modifications to the design, the furnishings and the building appointments that the Board accepted, which reduced the estimated project cost to $3.8 million. Items such as modification of the existing lobby were placed on hold, to be completed when additional funding permits. A proposed large public meeting room was eliminated from the design entirely. The Board determined that more cost certainty was needed. Therefore, in March 2016, the project was put out for formal bids by general contractors. Three bids were received. The low bid resulted in the overall project budget reaching $4.18M (more than $300 k over the earlier independent cost estimate. This bid placed the south entry vestibule into an “additional work” category. The Board approved including the vestibule in the project scope, which brought the total cost for the expansion to approximately $4.2 million.

The Levy Lift Proposal: The need to raise approximately $700,000 more for project funding created two dilemmas for the Board. First, full funding must be secured (including pledged funds, lines of credit, bonds, etc.) before the State grant funds may be used. If full funding is not secured within the 2015-2017 biennium, the State funds may not be available. The ability to raise the full $700,000 from the donor community, before the expiration of the State’s biennial grant, is questionable. The Board determined that to be an unacceptable risk to the project. Loss of the State funds would require suspending the project indefinitely. Mindful of the risks involved, the Board considered various alternatives: abandon the project, reduce the scope of the project, or delay the project. The Board concluded that abandoning the project was not in the community’s best interest as the need for expanded facilities is almost universally felt and expressed. Reducing the scope of the project would entail a total redesign and a significant delay in the project. Architectural costs, new permits and costs to rework the subsystem designs would very likely cost several hundred thousand dollars. The end result would be a smaller facility that fails to meet the needs and expectations of the community while costing just as much or more than the current project. As already noted, simply delaying the project would jeopardize the State funding and increase the construction costs to an unacceptable level. In the current construction industry environment, construction costs continue to escalate well beyond the rate of inflation which would increase the construction budget to an unacceptable level. Further, a significant delay could result in fewer or no general contractors willing to bid, or being unavailable to complete the project in a timely manner. Hence the Board determined to “put a stake in the ground” by starting the project on schedule so that the project can be delivered at the current budget. After considering a number of options, the Board determined that seeking a levy lid lift was the most appropriate way to demonstrate the full funding required to access the $1.4 million in State funding.

The proposed levy rate increase of $.147 per $1000 of assessed value does several things. The revenue generated will allow the District to borrow funds sufficient to cover the $700,000 shortfall in its entirety if needed. The levy revenue will fund the increased operations and maintenance costs of the expanded facility, estimated at approximately an additional $130,000 per year. When the expansion-related debt is repaid, the levy funds will permit the Library to rebuild adequate operating reserves which recent funding shortfalls have eroded. Even without the expansion, the Board would need to seek a levy lift within the next year or two. The effect of I-747 has been that each year the gap between available tax revenues and the incrementally growing costs of all Library services and building operations grows wider. Some basic functions of the Library, such as Sunday hours, have been increasingly funded by donations and gifts from the Friends of the Library. The Library is a community asset; providing its essential public services should not be dependent on inconsistent sources such as private donations. The increased levy revenue will also support enhanced programs, services, and technology, and will permit the Library to address deferred capital and maintenance projects such as acoustics for the meeting room ceiling, landscaping, and exterior and interior painting.

Should the levy fail, the extreme scenario would be to halt construction of the Library expansion. Irrespective of the levy proposal, the Board and other community leaders continue their efforts to secure additional gifts, donations and grant funding. For example, the Library recently was successful in obtaining San Juan County grant funding for the new staircase to Library Park. Other grant applications are pending. The Board will borrow as little money as possible to complete the project. All levy revenue not required for expansion-related debt service can be put to use sooner to fund operations and build reserves and pushes future levy lift requests further out. The Library provides a unique and valuable set of services to the community. Failure to pass the OIPL levy lift would likely reduce Library staffing and services. The levy lid lift will ensure the availability of full funding for the construction project, support quality services and increased collections, maintain the facility and grounds, and restore adequate reserves.


The Numbers:

Library Use:

Library user visits: 133,000 per year (2500 per week), up 267% since 1995

Library cardholders: 6300, up 210% since 1995

Annual checkouts: 123,000, up 162% since 1995

Library collection size: 41,880 volumes, up 135% since 1995

Library programs and classes: 220 per year, up 138% since 1995

Library program attendance: 4200 per year, up 400% since 1995


Expansion Costs and Funding:

Cost of expansion: $4.2 million

Funds raised so far: $3.5 million

Source of currently available funds:

  • Private donations: $2.0 million
  • State capital funds: $1.4 million
  • Friends of the Library: $100,000


The Expanded LibraryExistingAfter Expansion
Square footage of current facility:6000 sf11,900
Childrens’ area:447 sf801 sf
Young adult area:126 sf451 sf
Quiet reading “pockets”:5 chairs20 chairs
Small work tables:4 16
Meeting rooms:13
Public Restrooms:24
Library Materials Collection:41,000 items30% Increase
Total Library Budget for 2016:$700,000$850,000 (est)


Tax Data:

The last levy lift: none since District formation in 1987

Current library district tax rate Orcas: $0.303 per $1000 of valuation

Proposed library district tax rate Orcas: $0.45 per $1000 of valuation

Current library district tax rate San Juan: $0.495 per $1000 of valuation

Current library district tax rate Lopez: $0.4047 per $1000 of valuation

Annual increase in taxes on property assessed at $250,000: $37

Annual increase in taxes on property assessed at $750,000: $111

Annual increase in taxes on property assessed at $1.25 million: $184

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Press Release:

Library Expansion Progressing and Levy Lid Lift Placed on the November 8 Ballot.

Construction of the Orcas Island Public Library Expansion began on July 12, 2016. Detailed information regarding the expansion and still photographs are on the Library’s website. A continuous construction camera feed will also soon be available.

As previously reported, the Library Trustees have placed a Library District Levy Lid Lift on the November ballot. The current levy is 30.3 cents per $1000 of assessed property value. Under the District proposal, the levy would be raised to 45 cents per $1000. Current levy amounts for Lopez Island and San Juan Island are 40 cents and 50 cents, respectively.

The Library began accumulating funds for an expansion project in 2014. To date, $3.5 million has been raised through private donations totaling nearly $2 million, a State appropriation of $1.4 million secured by Senator Kevin Ranker and a $100,000 grant from the Friends of the Library. To meet the community’s demand for expanded Library facilities and services, the Board determined that the Library expansion should begin this summer, and to proceed with a levy lid lift on the November ballot. Approval of the levy helps to ensure that the State appropriation will be accessible in the current biennium. The additional revenue generated will allow the District to borrow funds sufficient to cover the approximately $700,000 remaining to be raised. The additional levy revenue will fund the increased operations and maintenance costs of the expanded facility, estimated at approximately $130,000 a year. When expansion-related debt is repaid, the increase in levy revenue will rebuild adequate operating reserves, which recent operations funding shortfalls have eroded.

Even without the expansion, the Board would pursue a levy lift within the next year or two. Because of State Initiative 747, the gap between levy revenues and the cost of Library services and building operations grows every year. Some basic functions of the Library are now funded by gifts from the Friends of the Library. The increased levy revenue will insure that basic functions of the Library, such as Sunday hours and technology improvements, will be more reliably funded.

A detailed history of the project, facts and figures related to the expansion’s impact on Library programs and services and Frequently Asked Questions and Answers are available on the Library website: www.orcaslibrary.org. Additionally, the Library Trustees and Library Director, Phil Heikkinen, are available to speak to any group or organization regarding the expansion and the levy proposal. Please contact Phil at 376-4985 or pheikkinen@orcaslibrary.org for additional information or to schedule a meeting with Phil or a Trustee.

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Frequently Asked Questions

The Orcas Island Library District Board of Trustees has placed a property tax levy lid lift measure on the November 8 ballot

What will the levy pay for?

The additional levy revenue will be used to complete funding for the Library expansion and provide funds for maintenance and operations (M&O) of the expanded Library.

What is the current Library levy rate and how does it compare with the other islands?

  • The Orcas Library levy is currently $0.303 per $1000 valuation.
  • San Juan Island Library levy is currently $0.50 per $1000 valuation.
  • Lopez Island Library levy is currently $0.40 per $1000 valuation.

What is the proposed Orcas Library Levy rate?

The proposal is to raise the levy rate by $0.147 to $0.45 per $1000 valuation.

How much will the expansion cost?

Approximately $4,200,000.

How much capital (expansion) funding does the Library already have?

Approximately $3,500,000, including:

  • $1.4 million from the Bob and Phyllis Henigson Living Trust
  • Approximately $400,000 in additional private donations
  • $1.4 million in State capital funds for 2015-17 biennium
  • $100,000 from the Friends of the Library
  • $200,000 from Library Capital Reserves

How much more do you need to fully fund the basic project?

Approximately $700,000.

Why did the Board begin construction of the expansion without full funding?

  • To wait would jeopardize the $1.4 million state capital funding, granted for the 2015-17 biennium.
  • To defer the expansion for a year to raise additional funds would increase the amount to be raised by at least $500,000 and might cause us to lose the $1.4 million State grant. We would lose the current construction fixed bid and have to redo the bidding process in a hot construction market.
  • The need for the expansion is now.

By what date does the expansion need to be fully funded?

In order to access state capital funding in 201, the expansion should be fully funded with cash, loans or lines of credit, and pledges by December 31, 2016.

When will the expansion be finished?

Summer 2017

The levy won’t immediately fully fund the expansion. How will you achieve full funding by December 31st?

The approved levy will permit the Library District to obtain a six-year line of credit or loan to achieve full funding. A portion of the levy revenue will be used to fund repayment of that loan or line of credit.

Does the Board have other plans to raise money?

The Board continues to solicit private funding and is pursuing grant opportunities, especially for additional capital items not included in the current project budget (see below).

Has there been a previous levy lid lift for the Library?

No. The original (1988) levy was 50 cents per $1,000; however, due to property revaluations and the effects of I-747, which limits tax revenue increases to 1% per year, the current rate is 30.3 cents. Even without the expansion, the Library would need to seek a levy lid lift, because tax revenues have not kept pace with inflation, causing the Library to draw down its reserves to pay for basic operations.

After the expansion is paid for, what happens to the remainder of the levy dollars?

Tax levy dollars will:

  • fund maintenance and operations for the expanded Library;
  • fund deferred maintenance and capital improvements to the existing building;
  • restore reserves to a level consistent with best practices for libraries; and
  • fund enhanced programs, services, and technology.

What is “Plan B” if the levy fails?

  • Pursue alternative borrowing options;
  • Continue to seek private donations and grants;
  • Continue to drawn down reserves for M & O;
  • Continue dependence on Friends for M & O;
  • Potentially delay or halt construction; and
  • Potentially reduce services and defer maintenance of the Library.

Why does the expansion cost $4,200,000?

  • “Hard” (construction) costs for the building are approx. $3.2 million. State law requires that the Library pay “prevailing wages” for all construction labor. “Prevailing wages” are higher than local wage rates.
  • “Soft” costs are approximately $1 million. Those costs include architects, the project manager, engineering, permitting, furniture and equipment.
  • The Design Committee, responding to community input — “We love our library; keep it beautiful” — has honored the quality and integrity of current building by selecting consistent finishes for the expansion, including metal roofing, cedar siding, and interior wood trim.
  • It is more expensive to build on the island because of increased transportation costs.

Did the Board do anything to lower costs for the expansion?

Throughout the design process, the Board eliminated or deferred non-essential items without sacrificing essential space and program needs or the quality and integrity of building. Those items total approximately $300,000. An additional deferred item, the rebuilding of the Library Park stairs, has been funded by a San Juan County grant.

How will these deferred items be addressed?

The Library District Fundraising Committee, composed of committed citizen supporters, has volunteered to raise funds for this component of the Library Expansion though private fund-raising. This portion of the funding is not time constrained like the full funding requirement for the basic construction.

How much do you expect maintenance and operations to increase with the new building?

The Library projects that M & O for the expanded building will increase by approximately $130,000 per year, to include an estimated 1 FTE additional staff.

What does the Library currently do to hold down maintenance and operations costs?

The Orcas Island Library is fortunate to have a large and enthusiastic group of volunteers — 45 community members who typically donate three hours a week each to help with checkout, shelving, grounds maintenance, and preparation of materials to enter the collection.

Will the expansion be Green?

While the expansion will not be LEED-certified, it incorporates many green components, including the following:

  • the roof includes infrastructure for solar panels;
  • some of the “content” of the construction materials is recycled (for example, content of metal roofing, concrete, and wallboard);
  • the cedar siding and Douglas Fir framing are regional materials;
  • the expansion is designed to be “day-lit” (use natural light) as much as possible;
  • the landscaping is low-impact and drought tolerant;
  • paints, coatings, sealants and adhesives are low-VOC content; and
  • the foam insulation is bio-based, and the batt insulation is mineral wool.

What are the sources of Library funding?

The current annual budget of about $713,000 is funded by:

  • taxes (85%)
  • Friends (5%)
  • private donations/endowments (2%)
  • reserves (4%)
  • front-desk fees (1%)
  • other (3%)

How is this money spent?

  • salaries (51%)
  • benefits (17%)
  • print and online collections or resources (9%)
  • professional and other services (8%)
  • building and equipment maintenance and replacement (4%)
  • programs/lectures/classes (3%)
  • insurance (2%)
  • utilities (2%)
  • communications and internet (2%)
  • supplies (2%)
  • travel and training (1%)

Expansion Process FAQs

How did the Library engage the community in the expansion process?

Three Boards, beginning in 2001, continuing in 2008, and again in 2013, did extensive surveys and held conversations with community members, library users, and Orcas schools and non-profit agencies to determine current and future library needs. Each time the Board concluded that the community desired more space for people, technology and books.

During 2014 and through the spring of 2015, the Board and Library staff conducted surveys and numerous meetings at the Library to discuss the current and future needs of the Library. Library Trustees and staff attended local community gatherings and organization meetings to gather inputs. Local architect David Kau volunteered time to develop preliminary schematics to be used in seeking additional feedback from the community. In view of the positive responses regarding expansion of the Library, active fundraising began in late 2014. In the fall of 2015, community members were asked to engage in the final Design Development process for expansion.

What other information and data did Board use to determine the need for expansion?

The Board gathered considerable data, including:

  • Library usage over 20-year period, which shows three-digit increases in several measures;
  • State, County, school-district demographics and population forecasts; and
  • projections on the evolving role of libraries in the 21st century, including statistics regarding print books, e-books, and electronic information sources.

What space needs will the expansion address?

The expansion will be 5,900 square feet, including:

  • increased space for Children (from 450 to 800 sf)
  • increased space for Young Adults (from 125 to 450 sf)
  • more quiet-reading “pockets”
  • more small work tables
  • one each large- and small-group study/meeting room
  • a dedicated computer area in the expansion
  • 30% more shelving for a larger collection and to move books from hard-to-reach bottom and top shelves
  • an outdoor patio for reading and wifi access
  • two more restrooms
  • a small store for the Friends of the Library

How long will the expanded building meet Library needs?

The expanded building should well serve the community for 20 to 25 years based on current population trends. The open floor plan of the current and expanded building allows the Library to adapt to changing needs in the 21st century. Small, piecemeal expansions are more expensive and less effective in meeting program and service needs.

Relevance of Library FAQs

Aren’t eBooks and the internet replacing libraries?

Studies show that most Americans are “ambidextrous” in their reading habits, preferring the internet and e-books for some uses and print for others. The Library’s collection adapts to evolving technologies; it includes not only print books, but also DVDs, CDs, audio books, downloadable e-books, and free broadband wifi, 24/7. Both onsite and through its website, the Library offers free access to a variety of catalogs and databases, including foreign-language instruction.

Who uses the Library?

The Orcas Island Library is free, democratic, apolitical, and welcomes everyone.

Orcas Island children are great users of the Library. Although children are only 16% of the island population, they account for 25% of all Library checkouts and 72% of attendees at Library programs, including twice-weekly Story Times, Book Clubs, and the Summer Reading Program.

San Juan County is unique in that 45% of adults possess Bachelor’s degrees, while 94% are high-school graduates. We are also an aging population; our most significant population growth is in the over-55 age group. Current trends indicate that by 2030 —only 14 years from now — a third of the county’s population could be 65 years or older.

San Juan County enjoys the second highest per capita personal income in the state, at $54,000, slightly behind King County, at $55,000, and well above the state median of $42,000 (2013 data). However, our wage income is among the lowest in the state — $31,000, compared to $60,000 for King County and a state median of $48,000.

What does this mean for the Library? Residents who enjoy high personal income and more leisure time desire high-quality information and entertainment. Lower-income residents — many of whom work several part-time jobs to make ends meet — need free access to high-quality information and entertainment.

What do people use the Library for?

For information (both print and internet), connection (free wifi 24/7), entertainment, quiet reading, studying, meeting, community drop-off and pick up, and Library- and community-sponsored programs.

The Orcas Library is consistently in the top five libraries in Washington per capita for user visits, checkouts, cardholders, and collection size. Those numbers have increased significantly in the past 20 years (1995-2105):

  • Library visits are 133,300 per year (2,500 per week), up 267%;
  • Library cardholders are 6,300, up 210%;
  • Annual checkouts are123,000, up 162%;
  • Library Collection size are 41,800, up 135%;
  • Library Programs and classes are220 per year, up 138%; and
  • Library Program attendance are 4,200 a year, up 400%.

The Library is not only a critically important information resource; it is also a gathering place — a community hub for meetings, programs, and person-to-person connection.