Library trustees debate murals, plan for projects

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Storm Lake Public Library trustees continue to debate the possibility of eliminating 20-year-old murals in the children’s section of the library, and what they could be replaced with.

“These things don’t last forever. Change is good,” said trustee Candy Clough, who approached the former library employee who created the large character-based mural, and received written permission from her to remove her artwork.

Trustee John Hughes, however, feels that the fate of the murals should be left up to children who use the library, calling the proposal a “vendetta” to destroy art that the children enjoy.

Trustees chairperson Mary Kay Hudspeth said she has conducted an informal poll of 15 children in the library, finding only one child who was aware of the mural.

She said many children today do not recognize some of the characters depicted, like Berenstain Bears and Curious George. Hughes argued that he had talked to children who say they like it.

During their meeting Monday, the trustees viewed a Ted Talks video on an effort to improve the environment for children that took place in the New York City schools, known as The Library Initiative.

There too, the issue arises that bookshelves need to be short for children to reach, creating big “dead spaces” between shelves and the ceilings. They solved the dilemma with large photo prints of the children’ faces in one case, in others with imaginative collage art installations reflecting subjects the students are interested in or interviews done with children.

Trustees were intrigued with the ideas, but some were leery of using photos of painted images of specific children for fear of alienating others who are not chosen, and because the subjects would quickly become dated.

The possibility of replacing the murals was brought to trustees by the volunteer group Friends of the Library. Trustees hope to have some shared discussion with that group before making any decisions.

Planning continued at this week’s trustees meeting for remodeling of the library’s meeting room. A project of between $20,000-$25,000 is expected, and trustees want to ensure that the facility will be appropriate for meetings, classes, children’s programs, receptions and rental uses. The trustees began discussion of finding a designer/decorator to recommend improvements, and were directed by the city to try to obtain three bids for the potential project. They favored hiring locally.

Trustees also discussed a recent suggestion from the city council that kitchen appliances be replaced. One member of the council felt that with a better stove and refrigerator, more food for programs could be prepared in-house rather than being catered in.

Hudspeth noted that the library leaders had not pursued such an expenditure. Food catered from Hy-Vee for children’s programs is funded by a specific Iowa Public Television grant, and if the food money is not used, it is lost, she said.

The trustees plan to meet with the city manager in the near future to further discuss the situation.

The library will be receiving a set of new chairs to be purchased by the Friends of the Library. The brightly colored chairs are very lightweight and on rollers, which should make them useful for all ages, and easy for transfer for anyone using a wheelchair.

The trustees are continuing to discuss another Friends proposal to provide funding for a summer intern. A representative of Buena Vista University will be meeting with the board to discuss the potential for a program. Other schools may also be interested, and trustees were open to similar presentations from the three regent universities in the state. However, the decision on hiring interns will be left up to the library director based on staffing for each year, to avoid creating a training burden.

Problems continue with the facility’s air conditioning, and a condenser will need to be replaced. Trustees were told that the cost will come out of the city’s budget rather than than the library’s.

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