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Thursday, April 2, 2020

Bellingham’s Alternative Library asked to vacate by end of 2019

The Alternative Library’s sign outside of the Karate Church on Tuesday, Oct. 22. // Photo by Claire Ott

*A correction was made to this article on Oct. 25, 2019 at 4:54 p.m.

By Noah Harper

The Bellingham Alternative Library has been asked to vacate the premises of the 130-year-old church they have resided in for the past three years by the end of 2019. The Alternative Library posted an update on their Facebook page on Thursday, Oct. 17 with their initial surprise of the request to vacate and asked the community for help finding the library a new home. 

“We ask you to brainstorm and network together with us for any potential leads. We are by no means going to disappear, but we’ll need the support of our entire community to take us to the next level,” the Alternative Library’s post said.

On Oct. 18, David Zhang, the landlord of the Karate Church, took to Facebook on the Karate Church account to express his side of the vacate request. Zhang expressed in the post that after working with the Alternative Library as a volunteer for seven years and a landlord for four years, fatigue set in.

“I’ve just about burned myself out completely, partly due to creative differences with the director, partly due to overextending myself as a building owner. So with great sadness and frustration I decided not to renew the lease and took my leave as a library volunteer,” Zhang’s post said.

Zhang ended his post wishing luck upon the Alternative Library and apologizing for his shortcomings in this process. Zhang declined to provide any further comment at this time.

“I’m bummed out to hear it, but I also recognize that he’s within his legal right to make that decision. The library’s got to adapt,” Alternative Library volunteer coordinator Meg Duke said. “It’s not the first time we’ll have moved.”

For the past three years, the Alternative Library has been operating out of the former Karate Church. This is the library’s ninth location in 12 years, with previous locations on Railroad Avenue and State Street. Even though the library has been through many iterations, this location felt the most like home due to its spacious design, Duke said.

“The spaces in the past were great incarnations, but this is definitely the best performance venue we’ve had,” Duke said. “This is what has felt like the most permanent home, especially because hundreds of hours of labor and multiple years of volunteer labor did go into making this building, home.”

The Alternative Library has until Dec. 20 to vacate the building entirely. At the moment, there is no next location set for the Alternative Library, Duke said.

“Bellingham is a small town, but finding a suitable place for our kind of project is maybe a little bit more difficult than finding just a simple room to rent,” Duke said, “And that’s one of the reasons why we did decide to post on Facebook, because we recognize we have more than 2,200 members.”

Regardless of the uncertain future, the Alternative Library plans to exist in some form, even if it’s limited.

Depending on the size of the next space, one option for the library is to put some of its books in storage and only make a small selection available, Duke said. 

“The library is a pretty cool, pretty flexible, pretty adaptable organization,” Duke said.


*The original article said the church was 180-years-old. The church was constructed in 1889, making the church 130-years-old. The correction reflects this information. 



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