Speaking Volumes: WB Library wants to expand, and do so much more by Nick Shimmin, WB Public Library · Op-Ed · April 12, 2013
As mentioned in last week’s article about why the West Branch Public Library is looking for more space, this week I am going to discuss why the library is looking at more than just expanding.
To do that, I have to give a little bit of background about the first years of the building project. Again, please visit www.wbpl.org/building-project for longer descriptions and full-length documents.
The building project began in 2005 with a space-needs assessment. Libraries are required to do these by the state to ensure that there is enough space to provide services to our community. While the building was only 12 years old in 2005, the study said that the library would need 11,000 square feet to serve the future West Branch community, compared to the 5,000 square feet of the current building. The library went through some staffing changes in 2006 and 2007 and it was 2008 before the library conducted long-range planning, outlining the time frame for expansion.
In 2010, a site feasibility study was conducted to give preliminary figures on what an expansion might cost. As a comparison, we also used what a new building might cost at the Cookson Community Center, then owned by the city, as well as the Midway Oil-Parkside Service area, as it would create a larger civic area with Town Hall and the Police and Fire Station.
The results were very surprising, to say the least. We had always expected that expansion would be the easiest and most cost-effective option, but the result was the opposite. The hill on the east side forces us to build two stories, raising the cost of construction and staffing, while reducing available space in order to provide stairs, an elevator, and associated equipment. The construction will force the library out of the building for an extended period; possibly adding rental and movement costs, depending on what available space can be found. It is also very unlikely that any expansion will be able to provide enough space to meet community interests, per last week’s article.
So, the library took a step back, took some time to discuss the issue, and then in late 2011 began the building program to outline what the community and library were looking for in the future of the library.
With the building program, sites can be better evaluated in the process being carried out currently. The library is working with FEH Architects to carry out this evaluation and will be holding a large two-day discussion over the 23rd and 24th of April.
Drawings and discussions will be held on several sites, including the current site, and by the end, both the library and community will have a better idea of what location might be the best available for the future of the library.
We encourage anyone who shares an interest in the future of the library and our community to attend. Times and locations will be provided for the sessions in the next article and we hope to see many of you there.