Change is on the horizon for Whidbey Island’s oldest library.
The Langley Library, which has been part of Village by the Sea for almost a century, will receive a much-anticipated update in the new year regarding the building’s accessibility and functionality.
The $2 million renovation project, which could start as early as February, will make better use of the library space downstairs and create meeting space for the public, among other things.
In 2021, the Sno-Isle Library received a $700,000 capital-boosting grant from the state for the project. In addition, the library system contributed $1.2 million and Friends of the Langley Library raised $30,000.
Since 2022, representatives from the Sno-Isle Library have met with members of the community, Langley City Council, the city’s Design Review Board, and the Historical Preservation Commission to gather input on proposed renovation plans.
Sno-Isle Library Deputy Director David Durante said nearly 50 people attended the public meeting to review the artistic renderings prepared by the architects.
“Which is unheard of for a library building meeting,” he said.
Community feedback has shaped the project plan. The original concept for an outdoor gathering space, for example, was scrapped when concerns emerged that it would impact the historic appearance of the building. Likewise, the city’s Historical Preservation Commission fears the historic fireplace, which is no longer functioning, was completely covered up in a refurbishment.
Durante said the architects are currently adjusting the concept renderings of the renovation in response to comments from the community. Updated renderings have yet to be released at press time on Tuesday. Final plans will need to be approved, most likely in January or February, by the city council and two citizen-led committees before construction can begin.
The renovation process is expected to add extra space to the library’s current footprint, which is 3,600 square feet. The downstairs space, currently used to store town records, unused furniture, and holiday decorations, will be converted into additional shelf space for the library. Durante said his hope is also to “upgrade” the break room for library staff. To improve accessibility, an elevator will be built so that everyone can access the lower level library. Outdated outdoor trails will also undergo a makeover.
But perhaps the most interesting addition is the meeting room on the main floor. Langley Library Manager, Vicky Welfare, has worked at the library for almost 25 years and said having a special room that could be closed off from the rest of the library was a huge need. Currently, spaces need to be reconfigured and furniture will need to be moved as the library program progresses.
In the years since the pandemic, say Welfare and Durante, the Langley Library has become a hub for connectivity, with increased digital use and activity.
“One of the things we found during the power outage on the island is we became a place for people to connect and connect to wifi which we can do because we share a generator with the city,” said Durante.
He added that there was increasing demand for “Zoom Rooms”, small places with partitions where people could join in on a video conference call without disturbing other library patrons. It will likely be included in the Langley Library overhaul.
While it’s unknown whether all or part of the library will be closed initially, services will still be offered in some way, whether it’s in the form of the Sno-Isle Library Bookmobile, a pop-up library in a rental storefront or something like that. if not. It is also not currently known how long construction will take.
“The biggest wild card is whether we can get product on a really regular schedule and different building kits,” says Durante. “The supply chain is unique now.”
Even so, the anticipation and excitement in society was palpable. The Langley Library hasn’t had a significant update since 1993.
The renovation was also carried out right on the 100th anniversary of the library.
“What a great way to celebrate by updating the facility and hopefully having all the new stuff,” said Welfare.