Whatcom County Library System
The first major library in Whatcom County was built in Fairhaven, one of 2,509 libraries funded by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie from 1883 to 1929. But with just one library to serve all of the county’s 2,503 square miles, Whatcom County needed more.
On Nov. 7, 1944, in the midst of the second World War, Whatcom County voted to approve a library system. Helped by a local tax, the new library system formalized a loose network of libraries in Lynden, Ferndale, Blaine, and Sumas started by women’s clubs and organizations. Sumas became the first city to join the Whatcom County Library System in 1947, the same year the Bookmobile started to serve the county.
Today, WCLS celebrates its 75th anniversary with 10 branches stretching from Sumas to Lummi Island to Deming and now even northernmost Point Roberts. It operates with a 2019 budget of $9.6 million and includes a new Bookmobile for the first time in 22 years. The WCLS won’t technically mark its anniversary until November, but it’s saluting the occasion with events throughout the year.
The WCLS needs your help preserving library history. It has embarked on a nine-month project involving three “History Harvest” days.
During each of the three-hour “harvests” that started March 31, community members have been asked if they have photos, articles, or other memorabilia they are willing to have scanned and added to the website’s digital collection. Bring a USB drive if you would like your own digital copy.
Erin Suda, public services assistant for the WCLS, is spearheading the project. As library staff members collect memories, Suda plans to be uploading content to the Washington Rural Heritage website. It’s the first project on the website dedicated to libraries, Suda says.
“We’re looking to show how Whatcom County libraries have affected people’s lives,” Suda says. “A lot of thoughtfulness has gone into this project and we’re hoping to find those treasures hidden in people’s storage.”
Attendees are also encouraged to share, while being interviewed on camera, any memories or stories from their lives that include the WCLS. The harvests will be casual with pioneer-themed refreshments, Suda says, like round loaves of Great Harvest bread, smoked salmon, and apple cider.
After harvests were scheduled for the Lynden and Everson libraries earlier this year, one more remains: The Ferndale Library’s harvest is set for May 18 from 2–5 p.m.
For the first time since 1997, the WCLS is getting a new Bookmobile—a 34-foot-long, $265,000 custom-made vehicle built by Ferndale’s TriVan Truck Body, in the same recognizable bright blue as the old Bookmobile. This library on wheels serves four communities and circulates 39,800 items annually. Two staff members are always on board during service hours, distributing a variety of books, audiobooks, DVDs, and CDs for all ages.
Sarah Koehler, Ferndale and Mobile Service branch manager, says people in the library system are excited—a new Bookmobile doesn’t come along every day. “It was time for an upgrade,” Koehler says. The library system is expected to get the new vehicle June 1 and it will be showcased at parades and other events throughout the summer and fall.
Another location to celebrate the 75th anniversary is the new Point Roberts Library that opened last August. The 2,500-square-foot library, located at 1431 Gulf Rd., is next door to the library’s original home in a room of the Point Roberts Community Center. About one-third of the building is the original structure, with the rest new construction. Patrons can use their library card to access the Point Roberts Library Express, located in the entrance of the building, to pick up and checkout library materials. The Express is available daily and the schedule is on the library’s website (below). The WCLS continues to expand its reach, just like it did almost eight decades ago. In December, designs were unveiled for a new library in Birch Bay.
5205 Northwest Dr., Bellingham
360.305.3600 | wcls.org
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