Margit Johnson, member of the Northfield Library board, attached a comment to last week’s Locally Grown podcast post and Ross suggested that we elevate her remark to a blog entry. What Ross wants, Ross gets, so here ’tis. (Photo of Margit is one I took of her when she was much younger. Please note that this update is not available on the city’s $85,000 website; however, the May, 2006 library space needs update is.)
As a member of the Library Board I can offer this update:
- The expansion of our 12,000 square foot library has been on the Capital Improvement Project list for over 8 years.
- Two years ago the library retained Bob Rohlf, an experienced library consultant who worked on the 1985 expansion when the public library grew from its original 4,000 square feet to its current 12,000 square feet. He assessed the library’s facility and services for a modestly projected population of ca. 38,000 residents (Northfield and the northern half of Rice County) for the next 20 years.
- Mr. Rohlf submitted a report to the Library Board in the fall of 2005. The report leaned heavily toward a 32,000 square foot library all on one level for the sake of efficiency and flexibility.
- The then new city administrator asked the Library Board to step back from more active planning (for a levy referendum in the fall of 2007, among other things) so that he could conduct a city-wide municipal space-needs assessment. The Library Board did that, supporting his interest in getting all the big pieces on the table for the benefit of the taxpayers.
- That space needs assessment by Hay-Dobbs is now in its second phase with 7 possible scenarios still in play. The first two scenarios explore the library in its current location but expanded toward or through Third Street. Mr. Rohlf recently reviewed the sketches included in the Hay-Dobbs draft report, submitted to the City Council in late September 2007, and found the sketches woefully wanting in terms of the adjacencies that he had recommended two years earlier. “Adjacencies” being an in-house term for services and facilities within the library being close to one another to enhance efficiencies and best practices. In short, Mr. Rohlf still favors a 32,000 square foot library on one level, preferably somewhere else in town.
- The Library Board is committed to the identified space needs in the Rohlf report (very few of those square feet are “mere” wants) if the library is to serve this community for the next 20 years. We understand that it may take a Very Creative Solution to expand the library on the current site. But we have heard from many, many residents that Third and Washington/Division is the preferred location.
- So the Library Board passed a motion in August 2007, to submit a resolution to the City Council. The resolution would acknowledge that both the NDDC and the Arts and Culture Commission have submitted letters of support for the Library Board’s request for permission to issue a Request for Proposal to three architectural firms to explore the feasibility of expanding the library on its current site with the appropriate interior adjacencies. As of the October 2007 board meeting the chair of the Library Board had not yet submitted the resolution to the City Council.
- When that resolution is entered into the public record, and with every hope that the Council will endorse the need to gather more information about the feasibility of the current site, the Library Board has every hope to receive what Ross calls “solution concepts” and share them widely with the community for input, suggestions, and additional ideas.
- With that information the Library Board will be in a much stronger position to formulate a recommendation for an expanded library, in sequence with the other municipal facilities in need of expansion and/or construction, that will actually serve the growing needs of a growing city.
- Meanwhile, the next discussion that the Library Board will need to share with the community is how to make the current library work for the next 3+ years, assuming the most optimistic timetable for levy approval, design and build. Right now for every new book that comes into the library, another book must be tossed out for lack of shelf space. Children’s book groups are meeting in the library director’s office for want of adequate meeting room space.
The Library Board meets the third Tuesday of the month in the [one] meeting room in the public library. The meetings are open to the public, and we would welcome all interested, frustrated, or impatient citizens to join us in pressing onward in spite of news coming out of City Hall.