Getting a read on needs, costFor more than a decade, New Richmond library backers have been dreaming about building a new facility to meet the growing demands of patrons.
By: By Jeff Holmquist, New Richmond News
For more than a decade, New Richmond library backers have been dreaming about building a new facility to meet the growing demands of patrons.
A space needs study was completed in 1998. Proposals, drawings and lengthy debates have been part of the public process ever since.
The newest push to build a new facility is inching closer to its start.
The Library Board has received about a dozen proposals from architects interested in helping the organization to update and continue its feasibility study process.
The board will review the proposals over the next few weeks, with a goal of hiring an architect by the end of the year.
According to Library Director Scott Vrieze, over the next seven months the chosen architectural firm will be gathering information, developing cost estimates and formulating recommendations about a possible new library building. The architects will be meeting with community members during that time to get their input on a future new building prior to developing any plans.
Library officials, along with stakeholders from the city, school district and surrounding municipalities, will then evaluate the potential options and create a roadmap to eventually making a new facility a reality.
“Are we ready to get the shovel out and break ground?” Vrieze asked. “We are not. There’s a lot of information gathering that needs to be done.”
The discussion about meeting the community’s future library needs is a complicated one.
Friday Memorial Library’s current facility is too small and has been for some time.
“Someone asked recently when we’re going to reach capacity,” Vrieze said. “We reached capacity about 10 years ago. Now, our space limitations are starting to impact the quality of services that we provide the community.”
According to a recent report, the New Richmond facility is the second smallest library in the region when compared to similar-sized communities. The community with the smallest library is currently in the middle of a building project, so New Richmond will soon become the smallest library.
“And we have a very busy, popular library compared to many,” he reported.
He estimated that an average of 500 people come to the library each day.
Vrieze said the current facility works well for patrons who come in to check out materials and then leave right away. The building doesn’t work so well for those people who might want to linger, he added.
Students who want a quiet place to study can usually rule out the local library, Vrieze noted. People who want to relax and read inside the library usually have to go elsewhere.
“There simply isn’t space for people to sit down,” he said.
The current building also has no space for large group gatherings, such as the weekly Summer Reading Program presentations that can attract up to 200 people.
“We have no space to accommodate any groups,” Vrieze said. “We have one small meeting room, which can seat up to eight people at the most.”
The library’s collection space is also maxed out, Vrieze said. If the library buys a new book, CD or video, an old one needs to be sold or disposed of to make room.
To solve the space crunch, library officials have considered a myriad of options. They have debated expanding the current facility, but that hasn’t been a preferred option due to the age of the structure and the lack of parking surrounding the site.
The preferred option, at this point, is the construction of a new library that could be attached to the Community Commons complex (the old middle school). Architects will study that option, determining if such a plan would be cost effective and deciding if the building could be attached or detached at that site.
Complicating that possible solution is the uncertain future of the Community Commons complex. The old school building has been divided up among several non-profit organizations and the community center concept has been heavily promoted.
Over the coming months, tenants in the Community Commons and the New Richmond School District will discuss the future of the facility and whether or not it will continue to operate as it has.
“I have high hopes that this will work out,” he said. “The trend is toward community centers. It’s an exciting opportunity.”
Vrieze said library officials are attracted to the Community Commons concept because it will create a “one-stop shop” for area residents to receive services, interact and get connected.
Foundations look favorably at such community collaboration efforts, Vrieze said, and the library will be counting on some grant funding to get a new building constructed.
The library will also be relying on local fundraising to help offset the cost of building a new facility, Vrieze said.
“We’re going to the community first,” Vrieze said. “And we’re trying to save up for it. We have $900,000 already saved to devote to the project.”
But with city borrowing capacity at a premium, Vrieze said it’s unlikely that the city will come up with the $3 million or $4 million in financing to make the new library a reality in the new few years.
“We’re just trying to bring everybody together to get the project done,” he said.