Changes at the LIbrary

With the population of Ames now well over 50,000, the city is looking for ways to better serve the growing community. From fixing up roads to renovating the public library, things are definitely changing, and it is up to the good people of Ames to decide how those changes should take place. The Board of Trustees have decided that a new building will be constructed in the parking lot by the intersection of 5th Street and Clark, between City Hall and First National Bank. The first problem that the project faces is apathy. The library already provides quality service, so why is it necessary to construct a new one? “People have used it for so long and they like it, so they’ll be wondering why we have to do this,” library director Art Weeks said. “Our challenge is going to be to provide a vision of what we could have and to make that vision so attractive that people are going to be willing to contribute that kind of money, to give this community that kind of a library. Not only will it be a good library for each and every person that comes in to use it, it’s also a library that shows civic pride and shows what Ames has to offer.” “The last major addition to the library was in 1985,” said assistant director Lynne Carey. “At that point it looked like it was going to last for a few years, and those few years are over. We’re now crowded and cramped and can’t provide the kind of service that people in Ames have come to expect and the kind of service that they want.” As early as two years ago, the library consulted an architectural consultant and reached the conclusion that they definitely needed more space. When more than one person is browsing in the same aisle, an awkward shuffle often occurs as one person attempts to glide casually through a rather narrow window of space while the other tries to act undisturbed as his personal space is invaded. The current building measures at 49,000 square feet, but the conclusion was that a minimum area for a comfortable space is 94,000. “We know that the library is a community gathering place,” Carey said. “We need more seating, and more study rooms, more meeting rooms, those kinds of things. We do have some groups that provide tutoring, and they just have to sit in a corner on the floor, you know just finding places, they spread out all over the building. Currently, we can’t accommodate [those kinds of activities].” “We’ll incorporate more efficient ways of managing our books that go in and out,” Weeks said. “It’s a tremendous process. We circulate 1,400,000 books, DVDs and CDs each year and that’s quite an enterprise to send out, get back, sort and get back on shelves. We have very little space to do that now. [Ultimately,] we want a building that’s going to be flexible enough to [cope with] changes that will inevitably happen in future years.” In order to make sure that the new building will be able to serve the Ames community for the next 20-30 years, it’s been decided that Minneapolis-based MS&R Architecture & Interior Design will be in charge of the building specifics. Although it’s been decided that a new library should be built, there are currently no plans for what will happen to the old one. “It’s gonna have to be used for something else,” Weeks said. “And what that alternate is, we don’t really know. Another thing you want to note is that, if everything goes well, we probably won’t be moving to the new building until about the winter or spring of 2013. So don’t expect things [to start changing] by next year. It’s a process that takes a while.” Because the project requires a significant amount of funding, the issue will be presented to the general public and put to a vote sometime in the future. “What the voters would vote on is bonds,” said Weeks. “So it will probably be a combination of bonds, public financing, private contributions, and grants. That’s basically how you finance a project [like this one]. “ “Ames is a community that has had great expectations of the library,” said Carey. “They supported it with financial support and also human support; we have a huge volunteer program. We know that people want a lot from the library and that they would be willing to give [a lot] as well. It’ll be a choice that people will have to make if they are ready to accept that big of a deal.”