Study: Library needs more space in the future
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.