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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Library hosts public input session on expansion needs

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Storm Lake Public Library will be seeking input from patrons in February regarding its future expansion plan.

Upon request of city officials, library board trustees are again working with longtime librarian and renowned library consultant George Lawson to update their needs assessment and building plan, last drafted in 2009.

The needs assessment is two-fold, projecting estimates for building updates and space requirements for the next two to three decades.

Lawson urged trustees to focus on space estimates while updating the plan.

"With digital books and downloadable media coming into play more than ever, you will want to give that more weight," he told trustees during a Jan. 14 meeting.

Already, the library has begun branching into the digital side of books, with Nook e-readers and online electronic book rentals.

He continued, "We want city officials to know we are aware of that and will be adding it to our plan---we are not planning a 19th century library."

Four years ago, Lawson discovered Storm Lake's physical collection was already consistently 50 percent smaller than 18 other Iowa libraries serving communities of similar population.

Considering the future of public computing is another important component.

Instead of expanding from eight to 20 desktops in the new building, Lawson suggested portable computers for adult patrons.

"If we can decrease fixed desktops and increase laptops for use in the building, we may save square feet because we can use study tables already provided," he said.

Trustees will be pursuing a pared-down version of the 28,000 square foot expansion plan designed by architects FEH Associates after a December 2011 three-day charrette.

The $7 million project, which would have more than doubled the library's current space, featured a limestone and glass building with a two-story addition on the north end of the block.

Expansion included a new entryway, larger program room, study rooms, tech commons, new children's areas, fireside comfort reading areas and adult fiction/non-fiction department on a mezzanine floor, open in the center to the main floor below.

While city council members and library trustees never made a formal decision on the initial plan, budgeting issues and financial restraints have forced a second look at the multi-million dollar project.

"We had not gotten to the point of adjusting it, and we knew we were not aiming for $7 million" said Mary Kay Hudspeth, Library Board President. "But he (Patrick) was very clear nothing would happen, unless we redid our assessment."

With the City of Storm Lake continuing to pay down debt from project AWAYSIS, the expansion project would not be viable for at least eight more years, Patrick conceded during the November 2012 meeting, noting the City only had a $5-6 million bonding capacity.

A date for the public input session, which will feature a brief update of what has happened with the expansion project thus far in addition to patron comments, has yet to be set. Lawson has planned several more meetings with board members to discuss drafts, and estimated the updated plan will be finished in May.

Updating the assessments will cost approximately $10,000, but will be funded through a capital improvement project allotment from the City of Storm Lake.

Since the planning process began moving forward in late 2011, nearly $90,000 has been spent on architectural services, engineering and feasibility studies.

After the City of Storm Lake and the library's memorial fund evenly split a $50,250 bill for FEH's preliminary expansion designs, the City also spent $28,650 last spring for I&S Group's feasibility study and design concepts for a South School library and community center.

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