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Bellingham
Saturday, June 6, 2020

Alternative Library finds new home

New Billy Frank Jr. Street location temporary, search for permanent location continues

By Claire Ott

The Alternative Library has found its new, temporary home after vacating their previous location at the Karate Church.

The library resided in “the Church,” as the volunteers fondly refer to it still, for the past three years. It was asked to vacate in Oct. of 2019, with only two months to find a new home.

Having to find a new location in such a short period of time was not an easy task, according to Meg Duke, a volunteer for the past two years.

With rising rent prices in the area, and many of the vacant lots being owned by a handful of companies, this volunteer-run non-profit had a hard time finding an affordable space to move to.

“It’s kind of a monopoly situation,” Duke said.

The library’s rent money comes from donations, memberships, show admissions and sales. As a self-proclaimed “DIY-style venue,” according to Duke, the library relies heavily on the contribution of its volunteers and indie-artists to stay open to the public.

Many of its bookshelves come from The RE Store in Bellingham, whose mission is to salvage the usable parts of buildings and repurpose them into furniture, library volunteer James Carlson said. All of the handiwork that gets done around locations to develop the venues is completed by the volunteers.

Building skills, art curating, art handling and information sorting all come hand-in-hand with volunteering, according to Future Man, founder and 12-year volunteer of the library.

“You learn a lot about art from being in the space,” Future Man said.

Future Man curated the majority of books, artwork and music that are for sale in the library. The library is a “very unique thing that not a lot of cities have,” Man said. Many of the out-of-town artists who play a show at the alternative library say that they have never seen a space that emphasizes so many different kinds of independent artists.

The library’s new space, previously a pottery studio, is a spacious multi-level house on Billy Frank Jr. Street. Multiple mopping sessions and long moving days later, the once clay dust covered workspace came together as the new home for the more than 10,000 piece book collection.

On the night of its grand re-opening, the “p-stu,” as the volunteers refer to the new location, hosted a variety of musical guests and introduced its new collaboration with the Waterbear Tea Collective. Future Man said the collective hopes to host a tea room on weekdays during open hours.

Local artists Feu du Camp and Vervex opened the evening with their ambient sets, accompanied by a lightshow by Ryan Rothaus. Following the acts was the debut performance of Lettuce Inn, a new collaboration of David Schnitzler and Elias Foerster that came together on the Winter Solstice.

In addition to their library, store, performance space and now tea room, Future Man hopes to eventually integrate a print-studio into their center. According to Duke, the library strives to be a place that supports artistic collaboration.

“If you have a community project that’s chill, it’s a great place to manifest it in,” Duke said.

For the next nine months, the Alternative Library will still be in search of a more permanent home. According to Future Man, the building was purchased with the intention of turning it into another set of apartments for downtown. The library is allowed to reside there until all of the zoning permits allow for the structural changes.

“We’re still looking for a place to permanently exist in,” Future Man said.

The Alternative Library intends to keep its pre-existing daily 2 to 7 p.m. hours, and can be found  at 1309 Billy Frank Jr. St.

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