Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Expansion Planning Tabled

The Library Board of Trustees, at a special meeting on November 1, 2011, voted unanimously to table expansion planning for a possible 2012 referendum. With the feedback from Open Forums and comments received online and in person, the Trustees discussed at length the community’s library needs and the current economic situation. The prevailing sentiment from the community of “yes, but not now” on library expansion was the determining factor in this decision to table further planning for now.

In September, four Open Forums elicited feedback from the public on possible library expansion. Results, including online and in-person comments received, were distributed to the Board of Trustees and posted on the Library’s website and here. After an extensive discussion at the October regular meeting, the Board of Library Trustees set a special meeting to address the timeline for expansion planning. At that November 1 special meeting, the Board tabled expansion planning by unanimous vote. At the Board’s instruction, the timeline for an expansion planning process will be re-examined in spring 2012, to respond to any changes in the building or economic situation.

In the 20 years since the current library was built, population of the district increased nearly 400% to more than 75,000 residents. In the same time period, attendance is up over 600%, checkouts 845%, reference questions 2,020% and program attendance 2,241%. Public computer use, not tracked prior to 2004, is up 1,160% in the last five years. This places enormous pressure on the Library, both for service and on the physical facility.

Next, the Board of Library Trustees will comprehensively examine the aging Library facility and mechanical systems, estimating cost and prioritizing the repair and/or replacement of systems necessary to maintaining a functional library for the next 7-10 years. At more than 20 years old, the expected life of many of these systems has been met or exceeded. Ongoing issues with the HVAC system, elevator, windows and roof must be addressed with the limited funds available.

In the meantime, physical space limits providing Library services to meet community needs. With a facility that is 1/3 the recommended size to serve today’s population, there is no relief in sight for the space crunch within the Library. The challenge of balancing the diverse needs of library users, from library materials to program space to study tables to public computers, continues in the foreseeable future.