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Main Library Renovation: Why is this Plan Different from All Other Plans?

For the last 14 years, I covered the struggles of various library boards as they attempted to develop a plan to renovate the Main library. The plan that will come before the public for a vote on Nov. 19 reflects a synergy of ideas, creativity and innovation that sprang from a board that has been energized by the hard work of a diverse building advisory committee. Never before have I witnessed such a hands-on approach.

After a stinging defeat two years ago, when the plan to renovate and expand the library at a cost of $20.8 million was defeated, the board of trustees could have been paralyzed. Instead, to their credit, they held a well-attended public meeting in which patrons aired their views and the board listened. From that meeting, a determination was made to more fully involve the public in the process of coming up with an acceptable plan.

The building advisory committee was created. This committee composed of some board members, community members, a number of whom are professionals in the construction business, along with library professionals took a fresh look at the needs of the patrons, current trends in library usage and the future of libraries. They also investigated the ways in which unused space at Main could be made more useful and determined that with a clever design and an eye toward burgeoning technology, the current space could be revamped to meet our needs.

To say that the process was transparent is an understatement. The committee’s meetings were open to the public and the minutes of their meetings were posted on the library’s website. Anyone who wanted to be in the “know,” could have been.

This time around the public will have a very clear idea of what they are voting on. For example, the idea of having a sloped floor for the community room space was fully explored. The expense of excavating and the potential for some unpleasant surprises in addition to the lack of flexibility that a sloped floor would engender led to making the hard decision that a flat floor would be more feasible.

The issue of protecting the environment of the site adjacent to Udalls Pond was a complicating factor that always made any plans involving expansion more problematic.

This time the new windows facing the pond will be bird-friendly and will still give patrons and staff the enjoyment of viewing the ever-shifting panorama and beauty of the site.

Expansion also adds to the time involved in construction. Many members of the public made it very clear that a two-year closing was not acceptable. This time, the gutting and rebuilding of the infrastructure of the building within the current footprint will be no more than one year and perhaps less.

Another difference this time is that an owner’s representative has been budgeted in the bond. The board learned first hand while working with the building advisory committee that having a professional owner’s representative to monitor and oversee a contractor and sub-contractors saves time and money and is essential when board members do not have construction expertise themselves.

I know that many of you were disappointed when the last plan was voted down and you may think that this less expensive plan means that we won’t have a 21st century building, but I believe that it will, if approved, be beautiful, sustainable, more energy efficient to operate and will give us all the benefits of a great library combining the traditional with the futuristic ... a place where learning, research and entertainment are cherished and celebrated.

Extra enhancements for the building may be added; such a wish list exists. A structure is being established that will allow for donations to be made for add-ons not covered in the bond issue.

Please give your support to our future by voting “yes” in the Nov. 19  referendum to give Main the tender loving care and the $10.4 million it deserves.

- Carol Frank