Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Irony: Scheduling Special Board Meetings

In a telling example of the Library's need for additional space, especially meeting room space, the Board of Library Trustees found it very difficult to identify a date and time for Special Board meetings to interview architects at the Library. Demonstrating exactly how frustrating it is for community members interested in using the Library's meeting rooms, in the two week time span for the weekday evening meetings, neither the Small Meeting Room nor Large Meeting Room were available for the time period needed. The interviews will instead take place in the very cramped confines of the Storytime Room, where three of the four walls are lined with cabinets, cupboards, boxes and carts. If the Library Board cannot get into the rooms that are supposed to serve as community meeting space, what chance do other community groups have in booking the room? One central role of a 21st century library is to provide a community gathering and collaboration space. At 1/3 the size Illinois Library Standards set for a population of 75,337 residents, it is a role the 1980's facility cannot fulfill.

*Yes, there are some other venues in the downtown that the Trustees could have used through intergovernmental cooperation. However, as part of the process is to introduce the firms to be interviewed to the Library and its facility, an off-site location was not a good fit for these meetings.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Plainfield Library’s History of Ballot Measures

The Plainfield Public Library District has had only seven ballot questions in its 90 year history: three to establish the library district and its predecessors, three for building bonds (two of which failed), and one for an operating tax rate increase (which failed). Construction of library buildings were funded primarily through three bequests. The last bequest was received in 1954. No operating tax rate increase has ever been approved for the Plainfield Public Library District. Per capita funding for the library has been level since 1993 – with no adjustment for inflation.
  • 1925 – Ebenezer and Celeste Nimmons leave $25,000 to the Village of Plainfield to establish a tax-supported library. Residents voted to approve the tax-supported library later that year.
  • 1926 – The Plainfield Library opens to the public in a small frame building on Lockport Street.
  • 1941 – Using the remainder of the Nimmons estate and an additional bequest from George and Marietta McClester, the 2,700 square foot brick Library building is constructed on Illinois Street.
  • 1954 – Fannie Stratton leaves a 160-acre farm in a charitable remainder trust to the Plainfield Library. The farm is operated by the Library for additional operating revenue.
  • 1977 – Plainfield Township establishes a tax-supported library for residents outside of the Village of Plainfield.
  • 1981 – Plainfield Township Library opens its 900 square foot facility inside Grande Prairie School.
  • 1988 – Voters approve the Village of Plainfield Library and Plainfield Township Library merger to form the Plainfield Public Library District. The tax rate for the district is the minimum required to establish a library district. The Stratton farm is sold as plans begin to expand the library building.
  • 1989 – Voters reject a plan to expand the library to 27,000 square feet and renovate the original portion.
  • 1990 – Voters approve a plan to expand the library to 27,000 square feet and renovate the original portion, with only 13,500 square feet to be finished initially.
  • 1991 – The Plainfield Public Library District opens its new facility on Illinois Street, with a lower level that is mostly unfinished.
  • 1993 – Voters reject an operating tax rate increase for the Library.
  • 1994 – The Library cuts service hours, eliminates staff positions, and freezes the book budget. Over the next several years, the burgeoning residential building boom in the community allowed the restoration of these services.
  • 1997 – The lower level of the Library building is finished using the remaining proceeds of the Stratton farm.
  • 2009 – Voters reject a plan to expand the main Library to 70,000 square feet and build a 30,000 square foot branch in the northwest section of its service area.

There have been no ballot measures for the Plainfield Public Library District since 2009.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Library’s History of Space Planning in Brief

As the Plainfield Public Library District enters into a new space planning process, the question "how did we get to this point?" keeps coming up. I’ll give you the short version:

Following the explosive growth in the area through the early 2000s, the Plainfield Library went through a full planning process for the building and library service. A ballot question for expansion to over 100,000 square feet of library in two locations (a main library downtown and branch in the northwest section of the service area) went to vote in April 2009 and failed. Due to the economic downturn, the Library Board of Trustees deferred placing it on the ballot again despite the service limitations of the current facility. In 2011, the Trustees asked voters through a series of focus groups and open forums if they were ready for the Library’s question on the ballot again. The response was “yes, it’s needed, but we’re not ready to see it on the ballot yet.” At that time, the current facility surpassed the 20 year expected lifespan of most of its systems. Repair and replacement costs to keep the building operational began to skyrocket. The Trustees hired KJWW Engineering to perform a full building evaluation. The report identified over $2.6 million in repair and replacement needs to keep the building operational for the next 20 years, with recommendations for immediate, short and long term repairs and replacements. Addressing the most immediate needs, specifically the replacement of the roof and HVAC system in 2012, depleted the Library’s Special Reserve Fund. In 2013, a Long Range Budget Plan was approved by the Board of Trustees maintain the operability of the facility until a new plan for a ballot initiative could be developed. Targeting 2016 for a new ballot question, the Library Board of Trustees began the planning process in late 2014. Today, the Board of Trustees is focused on assembling a team of professionals to help them gather information and aid in the creation of a plan. Over the next year, input and feedback on the community’s library needs will be critical to develop a plan that meets those needs for the future in a way that the community supports.