Langley Library due for makeover, pending approval of state budget

Sno-Isle Libraries is tentatively moving forward with plans to remodel and update the Langley Library to improve its accessibility under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and overall usability for customers and staff.

The project is subject to the state Legislature’s approval of a $700,000 matching grant from Washington Department of Commerce.

Sno-Isle Libraries is providing $550,000 from its 2021 capital fund and the Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation is committed to raising $150,000.

“The original library was dedicated in 1923 to the memory of those who served in World War I,” said Langley Library Manager Vicky Welfare.

There were two additions, in 1980 and 1993,” she said.

“As building use and community needs have changed over time, we recognized several areas of potential enhancement: improving ADA access with the entryway and throughout the facility and improving public and staff areas to help create a more welcoming space.”

The Langley Library was a popular community gathering point until coronavirus precautions in March limited access to all Sno-Isle Libraries facilities.

“Before COVID hit, we were hosting programs in our library all month long, but because we have no meeting room, we had to move furniture each time and use the library space before we opened or after hours,” Welfare said.

“Just think of the potential of having a meeting room that could be used by the community.”

The City of Langley owns the library building and now uses the basement to store documents. The city fully backs the project.

“We are pleased to support a capital facilities improvement project in service to a library that meets current and emerging community needs, and provides greater levels of access for all residents,” Mayor Tim Callison wrote in support of Sno-Isle Libraries’ state grant application.

At this point in the process, Sno-Isle Libraries’ construction plans are still in the idea phase, but they do account for the building’s status on the city’s Register of Historic Places and acknowledge the age and changing needs of its customers.

The average Langley resident is 57 years old. Before the library’s closure in March, many retirees and longtime older residents used the library daily, Welfare said.

Accessibility upgrades have been challenging and have not been significantly updated since 1993, Sno-Isle Libraries District Manager Chy Ross said.

Current accessibility measures do not take best advantage of the library’s historic entrance and other historic features.

The current wheelchair ramp reaches the main entrance door from Second Street. The ramp is long and narrow and has a tight 90-degree turn before it reaches the front entry.

The library’s historic 1923 entrance faces First Street and is only three steps above street level. It’s now the emergency exit in the children’s area. Welfare said a new ADA-compliant ramp from that door would have less grade to cover to reach the sidewalk, but exterior work would have to preserve the existing style and historic details.

Work on the library will focus on upgrades to provide universal accessibility inside and out, including a full interior remodel and update, while preserving and enhancing the historic nature of the building, Ross said in the state grant application.

The goal of the project is to increase the library’s ability to meet current and emerging community needs with traditional and innovative library services.

Initial stages of the project will include community input to ensure the community has input on interior redesign, Ross said.

The project will be closely coordinated and done in partnership with the Friends of the Langley Library, the Langley Main Street Association and other local groups.

Pending budget approval by the Legislature in early 2021, this project is expected to start the design and development process in May 2021, with construction starting in September 2021 and concluding in December 2021. A grand opening will be held in January 2022.