Study: Library needs more space in the future

Thursday, January 21, 2010
(File photo) Space needs consultant George Lawson, center, visited with Spencer Public Library Director Kay Larson, left, and Assistant Director Paula Brown this fall while gathering data for a report describing current and future needs at the library.

Consultant offers proposal on where to go next

A consultant has told Spencer Public Library representatives that an additional 9,214 square feet will be needed to effectively serve patrons over the next two decades.

The space needs analysis completed by George Lawson, and adopted by library board members last week, takes into account the library's collections, meeting areas, staff room, seating, computers and other factors. The study recommends the library's current 14,835 gross square feet be expanded to a minimum of 24,049 square feet.

The space needs analysis conducted by Lawson, a nationally-recognized library consultant based in Ames, was paid for courtesy a $3,000 grant from the State Library of Iowa. Spencer board members agreed such a study was needed after library representatives contemplated relocating the library to Gateway North Center in 2008.

"That's when we recognized that we had a need for some additional space. And, that's why they (the board) looked at the north mall location. But, it didn't have the space we needed, nor the floor loading we needed. That's when they decided they really needed to know how much additional space we would need. That's why they wanted to do this space needs analysis," Kay Larson, Spencer Public Library's director, reflected. "That's why we wrote the grant and hired George, so that we had an expert to tell us what he thought would be our space needs for the next 20 years or so."

"So, now it's up to the board to decide if they want to take up a building project now that they've accepted his report," she continued. "We are a long ways from doing an actual building project or looking for funding."

Spencer 3 Theatres, at 504 Grand Ave., was offered as a possible building and site this fall, but also deemed unsatisfactory because the building's square feet of floor space was not a lot more than what the library currently has.

"And, we would have the same issues with that building as we did with the north mall in that floor loadings would probably keep us from using that building without doing a lot of structural work," Larson added.

During discussions held to date, Larson said one thing has become clear for library representatives: The overwhelming message received from the public over the last 18 months is that they prefer the library remaining in its present location.

"But, our problem with staying here in this location, especially after we've seen the space needs analysis, is that we don't have the land around the building to add many square feet," Larson said. "We have a small strip on the east and a small strip on the west. But, that would be problematic to add those to the building and then have to rearrange everything on the interior of the building. Those are load bearing walls, which would be a big problem to try to tear those out, add a 15-20 foot strip and put them back up again. That would cause a lot of structural problems."

Library board members, meanwhile, have several options to consider. Adding a second story to the library, purchasing additional land around the building and locating elsewhere are among the alternatives. While Larson said it's not yet known if the library's ceiling would support a second story, she noted the building currently occupied by Black Hills Energy, to the north of the library, as well as properties to the east may be among those potentially available for purchase.

"There are buildings there that front Grand Avenue, which would be quite a bit of space going that direction. But, that would mean we would have to tear down buildings and put up an addition to the library," she said. "The third option, of course, would be another location for the library -- which we know is not favored by a lot of our residents. But, it might be the only cost-effective way to get a larger building."

In the meantime, Lawson has submitted a proposal to Spencer Public Library board members, which they are anticipated to consider further next month, for additional services. They include a space utilization study, designed to re-task existing space to maximize effectiveness in the immediate future while a longer-term solution is developed; a building program, which would create functional specifications for a building to serve the community through 2030; an architect selection phase, crafted to identify a design team that would best serve the community's needs; and a pre-funding design, which would develop a building plan, design concept and project budget to accomplish a building program, as well as the information needed to gain approvals and funding.

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  • DOWNWITHDEMS, you certainly are misinformed! You probably don't spend enough time in the public library.

    Possibly you value ignorance as much as service reduction. People who espouse these kinds of reductions in spending rarely mention all the things they expect government to provide that they would never want to do without.

    You will probably never need the fire dept. It should go.

    You may only need the ambulance maybe once, as well a hospital. Get rid of it.

    You aren't into crime I suppose, so what do you think we need a jail and police for? All these unnecessary things cost us far too much and we will get rid of them, because one or two people in all this town think they aren't needed (by them)

    I hope you have read that the Spencer Library is experiencing voluminous growth in use by all ages.

    There, all can read periodicals that won't be on any electronic format. Have you tried reading an entire book on a Kindle? It isn't very accommodating, book readers have in intimate experience with an actual book that will never be replaced by electronics.

    Our library supplies the needs of growing book clubs, children s programs, computer and online use that is expanding constantly. They help with geology and other research on private and commercial levels.

    you really are a sort of Scrooge, since so many people are using the facility here and now visiting from all over the world because of the Dewey books. I don't see how you could have picked a more popular service to suggest slashing from our town. But at least, if we did as you suggest, we would be first!

    -- Posted by A. View Point on Thu, Jan 21, 2010, at 10:21 AM
  • A. View Point to decide that someone is ignorant because they do not go to the library on a regular basis is absurd. And not once did Downwithdems say anything about "slashing" the library from our town. I think you may be the one that is misinformed. We live in an electronic era. Any periodical is either available in an electronic form or it will not be around very long. Look how many newspapers have ceased printing of their media and are only available online.

    True there will always be the purists who want to curl up with a good book and read it front to back but there are just as many people who will be sitting down to download there new favorite book (ie: Dewey). Yes people are coming from all over to see the famous library that housed Dewey but the fifteen minutes of fame will not last forever.

    Now dont get me wrong I believe that the library is a needed and useful part of our community. I just do not see that our library needs to be expanded right at this point in time. We have plenty of other more pressing issues that need to be addressed. If a fundraising effort was started now with an anticipation of expanding in say ten to fifteen years that would allow time to raise funds and make assurance that the addition was necessary.

    If the library was expanded; my personal opinion would be to remain in the present location, purchase the Black Hills Energy building and make the addition to the North. A small courtyard for holding outdoor childrens programs and for people to enjoy some reading outside would be very nice as well.

    -- Posted by deweyh on Thu, Jan 21, 2010, at 10:51 AM
  • Why not make an inventory of the books less frequently checked out, the oldest ones, outdated resources i.e. encyclopedias etc. and donate those that seem to be less desired to the Rotary sale or simply have a huge inventory reduction sale? That should free up space enough to determine whether the space assessment was correct.

    -- Posted by Leah Cauthron on Thu, Jan 21, 2010, at 10:54 AM
  • Library usage is actually up in recent years. A simple Google search will bring up endless articles and stats.

    The library is a safe place for your children to go after school or during the summer. Libraries offer wholesome activities for your kids that are a much better alternative than what they might come up with on their own. There's storytime, craft parties, movies, book themed parties, gaming parties, and the list goes on. I'd rather have my kid hanging out at the library than on a street corner, or often times even somebody else's house.

    Libraries offer public use computers for individuals to use. Believe it or not, there are still a lot of homes that don't have a computer. As our society becomes even more technologically advanced, there are things that you can't do without a computer. There are cashier jobs that you have to apply online for. Where should people go to do this?

    Libraries offer specialized programing like author meet & greets and special interest presentations. I've seen programs in libraries such as paranormal investigations, scrapbooking, quilting, regular free computer classes, free resume classes, author meet & greets, all for free to anybody that wants to come. Where else would you find such things?

    What about newspapers and magazines? Yes, you can see a lot online, but even this newspaper only publishes some of it's content as free access. If you want to read the paper in its entirety, you can subscribe, or go to the library.

    As far as e-readers go, I expect that they will largely be a fad. This isn't really new technology, it's just getting trendy. I think that they appeal to gadget nuts, but I am skeptical that they will overtake print books. If I am wrong and they stick around with a large audience, I foresee libraries in the future having a downloadable e-book services similar to the downloadable audiobook services that many libraries across the country. And besides, if you spill a cup of coffee on a book, that's a bummer. If you spill a cup of coffee on your e-reader, that's bad news.

    A library is so much more than just a place to pick up books. It's community.

    -- Posted by stafinois on Thu, Jan 21, 2010, at 11:08 AM
  • True, the slashing isn't exactly what was expressed, but library needs are expanding here in an amazing rate. I go in there and the place is busting at the seams with people. Periodicals includes magazines, and with the use of trees for paper, we don't all need to own so many of those and this is just a fact. We also should pay attention to the inter library loan service, which includes out of print books that may never make it onto the web. Right now there are some legal issues that may prevent digital versions of some books from ever being available on line, for ever.

    Lastly, the library IS looking down the road. The plan is to do something five years down the road it that. So it's no emergency sor of thing

    I go there to check out book on tape, videos, and big art book full of full color pictures that take hours to view on line, and it's just not the same as a REAL BOOK..

    -- Posted by A. View Point on Thu, Jan 21, 2010, at 11:10 AM
  • Leah, most libraries do that on a regular basis. Up in Milford, we have a big book sale every year that consists of donated books and ones that have been weeded from the collection. But, new books are always coming out, so it's not like you are saving a lot of space in the end.

    -- Posted by stafinois on Thu, Jan 21, 2010, at 11:10 AM
  • Doing the library study was the proper method to use. With hindsight, the current building should have been designed with a secord or third floor in mind (more cost-effective in the long-term). You will probably never obviate the need for a library where you can view older collections and utilize services. The older, worthwhile materials will probably never be transferred to computers. Libraries routinely cull materials from their inventories by having sales or disposing of them. Libraries are evolving and are being made more inviting. I have been in libraries (some old, some new) with fireplaces and library cats, for instance, that create an ambiance. As individuals become more isolated, libraries are providing a place for people to interact while they are utilizing the library services. Do not measure each invidiual's amassed knowledge in financial terms. What is more important than education and communication in a society?

    -- Posted by communicate on Thu, Jan 21, 2010, at 11:19 AM
  • Now just an idea so don't anyone go shooting it down before you think about it...what about space in the newly renovated old Middle School? Shouldn't it be able to withstand the weight? I think that would be a great place to expand and not to mention maybe offer some volunteer opportunities to those who reside there.

    -- Posted by Leah Cauthron on Thu, Jan 21, 2010, at 1:12 PM
  • Say what ever you like about the trails and parks, or that an electronic device may replace a child's favorite bedtime book. The fact is that more people ARE using our library, during the farm crisis, many more people went there for things they could no longer afford at home. Today we see a similar increase in library use across the country.

    In five years the needs may change, but right now we are out of library space. See for yourself, the programs there are very necessary and being used. In the Summer the parks will return to greater use and the library will get a little less crowded.

    Sure we stopped using slide rules and no one is asking for gold plated streets. But you will notice that slide rules are now collectibles and vinyl records are coming back in favor. When the internet is down, books are still readable. Some news papers are now charging the viewer for online access. Many authors refuse to allow digital forms of their books online and people enjoy the actual closeness of being together for a common cause.

    I five years, when we see if any of us can still afford to own a digital book, we will see if expansion is still needed. Until then, use the library, you paid for it, some-what.

    -- Posted by A. View Point on Thu, Jan 21, 2010, at 6:03 PM
  • DOWNWITHDEMS, with all your input, I believe you continue to ignore the fact that this study was done for information to be used sometime in the FUTURE. As in, not right now. As in, not during these economic times. As in, if books have really fallen by the wayside, the community may decide not to proceed (although I hope that isn't the case). Do you realize how ridiculous you sound ranting about a problem that hasn't even arisen yet? Let's cross the bridges we're at instead of planning to burn the ones we haven't reached yet.

    -- Posted by notinia on Fri, Jan 22, 2010, at 9:39 AM
  • The automobile was just a trinket

    The airplane "would never fly"

    The TV would never catch on

    and the computer was just a fad!

    Just thought it was time for a little humor to go with the other posts about technological advancements :)

    -- Posted by deweyh on Fri, Jan 22, 2010, at 10:14 AM
  • DOWNWITHDEMS, there's just no getting through to you, I give up.

    But let me point out to those with open minds, many digital on line books are now being made available with out proper consent. That is theft and a legal issue will have to be sought there. I am not going to be part of a theft by business from artists, who are not paid well on the whole. The down loaded book in many cases expires once read or after a short time. You pay to rent those books, all the books in my collection will be around for a long time and when the Kendel is broke they will still work fine, just like my slide rule. (which my kids all covet)

    These times may be tough for some, but we have only 4.5% unemployment here. Very bad for some for sure but far from the 15% seen elsewhere. Why so many people are complaining about these dire straits when their situation is not degraded by the least bit, confounds me. Here we are in fair shape and are doing our best to make adjustments where we can. I hope that all those who are not strained to severely are donating to charity, as before and volunteering at places like the library. They can use a hand. And for those who cannot believe what is going on in these organizations, show up at a meeting, get on a board and help out that way too.

    Lastly, I remember when it took a foot stool to get to some of the books in the library. I know that we sometimes need a taller person to help if we can't get up to the top shelf. Why are those top shelves empty? Why can't we stack a little higher and fill the bottom shelves to the floor? Every time I go to the library I notice they are selling classic books, for needed space, but there is open shelving in lots of book rows. That is a quick solution for more space there as well, shove the rows a little closer together. We can cope in tight spaces in tight times,I think.

    -- Posted by A. View Point on Fri, Jan 22, 2010, at 10:44 AM
  • With the schools implementing the AR program there is a need for books more than ever! With the Twilight series and Harry Potter, was it just me or did people SWARM to be in line to get the first 100 or so copies? Say what you wish but books will never be a thing of the past. Technology will never replace sitting down on the sofa or snuggling up in bed to a good book. Technology will never suffice while tucking a child into bed and readying them for a night of dreaming. People that think libraries will never last are selfish, materialistic people that have to 'keep up with the times'. Be happy with what you are blessed with and quit changing things so rapidly and then maybe, just maybe our jobs won't be in jeopardy.

    -- Posted by jusamom on Tue, Jan 26, 2010, at 10:05 AM
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