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Study highlights options for Library funding and governance

City and Library leaders are studying options for sustainable long-term Library funding and governance, with the help of BERK Consulting, a strategic planning and business consulting firm.

BERK representatives will present a draft report on the results of their work to the Bellingham City Council Committee of the Whole at 3:10 p.m. Monday, November 13 in Council Chambers at Bellingham City Hall.


Various strategies have been reviewed by the BERK team, including a potential annexation to the Whatcom County Library System (WCLS) and other options. The study was initiated as part of a larger strategy identified by City staff to reduce stress on the City’s General Fund and provide more stable funding for the Library.

Through the BERK study, another purpose emerged: the need for additional funding to gain any improvements in levels of service currently provided by the Bellingham Public Library. When benchmarked with peer libraries across the nation and within our state, the Bellingham Public Library has a comparatively high level of use. But it struggles financially to reach above the low to minimal levels of service identified in standards adopted by the Library Board of Trustees and City Council.

These circumstances were taken into account by the consulting team when considering various funding and governance options. Two options the BERK team identified provide relief to the General Fund. The other options increase the General Fund challenges, but would improve levels of service provided by Bellingham’s Library. One option turns over the governance of the Library to the County; the other three options maintain governance of the Library within the City.

More details about each option and BERK Consulting’s draft report are available in the Bellingham City Council agenda packet for the November 13 meeting.

The Library Board of Trustees has postponed work on the Library’s next five-year strategic plan, pending the results of this study and Bellingham City Council direction resulting from it. At the November 13 Committee of the Whole meeting, BERK will summarize the study results for Council information and consideration. Library Trustees and Library Director Nancy Kerr will be available to discuss the study and next steps, which will need to include community involvement in 2018 to further evaluate any preferred options identified.

More Information

Summary Memo to City Council about BERK Report (PDF)

Bellingham Public Library Services and Funding Models – Discussion Draft (PDF)

Project Contacts

Brian Heinrich, City of Bellingham Mayor’s Office, 360-778-8100
Rick Osen, Bellingham Public Library Trustee, or Nancy Kerr, Library Director: Contact Us