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home : news : news Wednesday, August 23, 2017

12/21/2016 Email this articlePrint this article 
Library talks begin
Expansion plan follows 7-year-old needs study; architect being picked

By Tom Pantera

City officials are starting to talk about the cost of expanding the Frances Banta Waggoner Community Library - albeit in a very preliminary way.

During Monday's annual strategic planning and goal-setting meeting, City Administrator Steve Linder gave the city council numbers suggesting how $5.3 million might be raised for the project.

Those numbers included a $2.3 million bond issue; $750,000 from the library's endowment; $750,000 in grants; and a $1.5 million fund raising


But city officials have a lot of time to refine those numbers and raise the money. Under the city's plans, construction wouldn't even start until 2020.

And the numbers are starting to get outdated. They came from a 2009 needs assessment done for the library, which included a rough estimate of project costs, Lindner said. Thus, they are currently no more than a best guess.

"That is the only thing we have on paper," he said, "and configurations have changed."

The latest plan, which the Library Board first saw this past summer, is for a library that would meet the community's needs through 2040.

That included:

A collection of 45,900 books, 7,150 non-print items and 90 magazines

Eighteen technology stations, which would include a mix of computers and wireless stations for people who bring their own laptops or tablets to the library

Seventy-six seats for readers

Ten workstations for staff

Programming and activity space, including a multipurpose room with seating for 100, a conference room with seating for 12 and a story-time room with seating for 30

To fit in all of that, the library would be expanded to about 20,000 square feet and two floors from its current size of 7,500 square feet on one level.

Plan has evolved

The latest plan represents some changes from the 2009 plan, Lindner said.

"The way [the building] is used and is laid out has changed quite a bit," he said. "Technology has reduced the need for some space, but the way they recommend utilizing the place adds back space needs."

For example, the latest plan envisions shorter banks of shelves, because people often can't reach the highest shelves and it blocks natural light in some parts of the building.

"How you use that space as far as different types, division of space into areas for children, teens, usable spaces for small groups, all those demands have changed even in the last 10 years," Lindner said. "It's time to take another look and make sure we're using the best information to move forward, even though it's going to take a handful of years to get where we want to go."

The Library Board has received proposals from five architectural firms for the conceptual design, the first step in determining how the library will actually look. The conceptual design will enable the board to begin garnering public input and develop a more realistic, up-to-date cost estimate.

One of the firms that has submitted a proposal is Shive-Hattery, which is also the architect for the Clinton County law enforcement center project. Another is IIW, already DeWitt's engineering firm.

When it meets next week, the Library Board will narrow the field to three, which will be invited to give presentations, Lindner said.

He said the city hopes to have whichever firm is chosen to start the conceptual work after the first of the year.

It's possible, if not very likely, that the project could ramp up before 2020. Even if it were to begin immediately, "'immediately' would be no sooner than next spring," Lindner said.

And judging from past project like the police station, it would take four to five years from this point to completely finish, he said.

"We have a long ways to go."

Librarian 'encouraged'

Library Director Jillian Aschliman, who has been in the job only five months, said she liked what she had seen, even if the process is in its earliest stage.

"I will say that I am encouraged by a lot of the discussions," she said. "We seem to be on the same page in maximizing the way we're trying to envision not just for five years down the road, but way down the road too."

As part of the planning process for Monday's meeting, Aschliman noted that the library needs additional staff and might require a bigger budget to provide better and faster service.

"I am concerned about our computer system we use for checking materials in and out," she cited as an example. "It's not very efficient."

At many libraries, she noted, patrons receive robocalls or text messages to let them know a reserved item is in or they have overdue materials.

"We're doing that manually now," Aschliman said, "because we don't have the computer support."

Many of those needs exist with or without the library project, she said.

"Those are things that we need to start thinking about," she added, "especially if we do move ahead with a new building."

In her notes to the council, Aschliman also emphasized the importance of getting the public to sign on to the project.

She noted that mostly out of an abundance of caution, she said.

"I think we have been very lucky, especially that the people I'm talking to are very much in support," she said. "They see the need; they see how cramped we are.

"But nothing's ever a for-sure thing, so we just want to make sure we're educating the public on why we need the space and we continue to have that support."

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