Friday, October 17, 2008

Budget 2009: what's happening with a new library building?

We had a facility study earlier this year, which concluded we ought to have a new library building. But a consultant and the Library Board agreeing about what we ought to do is only a beginning, and not even close to resolving the political decisions that will be needed.

Some people have congratulated me that we'll be getting a new library -- thanks, but that's premature. Many people ask about a possible building project:
  • when will it be?
  • where will it be?
  • will we remodel or build new?
But it's too soon to say much; most of these decisions are still years away. We're trying to keep things moving forward, and the next step will be decided in the 2009 City of Appleton budget.

In their 2009 budget request, the Library Board asked for funds to do preliminary design work next year -- the estimated cost would be $75,000, and the Appleton Library Foundation has generously offered to pay $25,000 of that amount. The Mayor's Executive Budget, including this request, was published on Oct. 1 and is now in the hands of the City Council. The Council will hold a public hearing on Nov. 5, and vote on the budget on Nov. 12.

Dealing with building concerns is a long-term project:
  • this year we studied service needs and community priorities vs. current space, including focus groups, surveys, interviews and public meetings; the report, accepted by the Library Board in July and available here, concluded
    • we need more space (138,000 sq. ft. vs. 86,000 current) and it needs to be better designed for the 21st century
    • we should have a single building and not add branches
    • we should stay in the downtown
    • a newly designed structure would be more efficient and best provide for future library service needs
    • remodeling and adding to our current building is possible, but we cannot add without substantially increasing our footprint -- the building footings and structure will not permit additional floors
  • So what's next? We have a five year capital request before the Council, though we're only looking at funding for next year.
    • 2009 -- preliminary designs, drawings and cost projections-- based on space planning and features
    • 2010 -- site selection & site cost projections
    • 2011 -- site acquisition
    • 2012 -- final schematic designs & cost projections
    • 2013-4 -- construction
  • This is not just about space: it's about service delivery & efficiency
  • It's too soon to talk about location -- until we understand more about costs, and are ready to commit to a piece of real estate. And you don't pick out real estate until you're ready to commit.
  • We will not do anything we can’t afford – we know that Appleton is conservative and careful with regard to debt; major expenses are years away and won’t be approved until we’re ready
  • We hope to raise substantial private dollars to help, but we need to demonstrate City commitment to donors.
The other useful component of our budget request is for RFID (Radio Frequency Identification: $107,000 requested for 2009), a short-term building block toward a long-term solution, improving security and circulation systems, offering:
  • Better efficiency
  • Better security
  • Long-term savings will be greatest if we can add a substantial automated materials handling system, preferably in an upgraded facility designed for more efficiency
We're moving forward deliberately -- not quickly -- some of us might wish it were faster, but we need to be fiscally responsible to make this work. We just want to continue moving forward.

You can read our actual five year capital request for the building here and the RFID project here.

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