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home : news Wednesday, August 23, 2017

4/12/2017 Email this articlePrint this article 
Meeting on new library plan draws crowd
‘Fantastic’ response for public input offers many thoughts on expansion

By Tom Pantera

If those planning a new library for DeWitt wanted public participation, the first meeting of a citizen advisory task force was a good omen.

A standing-room-only crowd of about 60 people packed the library meeting room Thursday night and spilled out into the lobby. Library Director Jillian Aschliman said some of those who attended were specifically recruited by Library Board members, but others were simply interested members of the public.

They heard Kevin Eipperle of FEH Design, Dubuque, the firm chosen to do early conceptual design work on the project, talk about the current building, anticipated needs in the new one, and the project timeline.

He told the crowd the advisory task force was being formed to "provide their wisdom and knowledge and advice back to the [Library] Board."

He reviewed the state of the current building and discussed anticipated space needs.

Anders Dahlgren, a library planning consultant hired by the board, said the new library would need to cover about 21,500 square feet - twice the size of the current building, Eipperle said.

He said the advisory task force would be asked what features members wanted to see in a new library, as well as what concerns they would like architects to study during the design phase.

Meetings in May

Part of that process will be a two-day design workshop May 17 and 18, when architects will be on hand to take suggestions and actually come up with conceptual drawings on the spot based on input from anybody who wants to attend part or all of those days' sessions.

By the end of that, architects will have perhaps three or four plans, including the configuration of the building, furniture arrangements, and preliminary costs.

Another meeting is planned for May 25. Results of that, along with a public survey, will be used to make a final recommendation to the Library Board.

Much of Thursday's meeting was given over to a discussion of decision-making criteria for library planning - the kinds of features people would like to see in the new facility.

Those in attendance made suggestions that covered a wide range of features. Some wanted to make sure the new library's design educated visitors about the community and promoted creativity. Others suggested the new library should promote partnerships with entrepreneurs and the school district.

Some advocated for flexibility of interior spaces to provide a wide variety of uses. Among other suggestions were spaces where kids could make a little more noise than is traditionally allowed in a library, and even perhaps a vending area for drinks and snacks - possibly even a wine bar.

Speaking after the meeting Aschliman said the attendance was "fantastic." The library had tried to promote the meeting, but she still wasn't sure how many people would take the time to show up.

"It makes me feel better" that the library is on track to do what the community wants, she said.

The next advisory task for meeting will begin at 6 p.m. April 27. It was originally planned to be in that same library meeting room, but Eipperle said the turnout Thursday probably would cause it to be moved across the street to the community center.

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