This is the text of an email sent to the Library staff, the day after the City Council Finance Committee reviewed the Mayor's budget for all departments, and the our local newspaper published an article featuring the request for a library building study
Notes on a Sunday morning...
I know, this should be a day of rest, but I had to go and read this morning's Post Crescent first thing ...
The headline on page 2 states, in impressively large type, "Library space study budgeted." True enough, but the reality is complex and political. We've been asking for a space study for three years. This year is the first time it's been in the Mayor's budget. And now it's in the Finance Committee's budget, on a 3-2 vote, and going to the full City Council for approval on November 14. At that point, it could be removed from the budget by a majority of the Council. Based on the split vote in committee, some of the other remarks from alderpersons, and the media attention, we can expect the issue to arise in deliberations.
The Post Crescent article was actually pretty good, though I don't believe I said that the library is literally bursting at the seems. We're not, although space is getting tight, and we know that the time from a study to any significant change will be measured in years. We also know:
- we may have enough space for today, but not for long-term needs
- several areas of the collection are already quite tight, despite increasingly aggressive weeding
- shelving on top and bottom shelves alleviate some needs but is not ideal for accessibility of materials
- growth in collections and technology has eaten into floor space and reading/study seating
- Appleton is growing in size and population, with two high schools north of Highway 41, continued annexation and construction, especially to the northeast and southeast
- more people from Appleton use libraries in our neighboring communities than vice versa, often citing convenient location and parking as reasons
- our exit and entryway are not ideal for security: this makes it hard for Circulation staff to monitor and creates problems when groups use our meeting room before or after hours
- our Young Adult area is very small -- smaller than Little Chute's and much smaller than libraries in Waupaca and LaCrosse, restricting our ability to attract and serve people at a critical age
- for economy and expediency, our 1996 expansion ignored our 1994 building study's actual recommendations and built smaller than needed for future growth
Assuming we get the study approved in the final budget, we will work with the Library Board and the City's Facilities Management Department to make it happen. Most likely this would mean creating a "Request for Proposals" to consulting firms who have experience in studying library building alternatives. Often this includes a team of a library services consultant and an architect. Until we actually get into a study, it's hard to anticipate every possible alternative, but major ones at this point involve:
- doing nothing
- remodeling and/or expanding our current building
- relocating to a new building
- adding branch(es), either though construction or storefront rental
- developing a joint library with one or more neighboring municipalities
This will be interesting as we proceed. I hope that everyone on our staff has a sense of what we're doing and why, as I'm sure you'll all get questions. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask me or refer people to me.
There were more budget issues, but I think the building study was the big one. Nobody from the Council even asked about the materials budget, so I hope that will be OK. More to come, I'm sure!
There's other stuff to talk about, but enough for now.
Library staff, APL users, etc. this is a good point to leave a comment here...