Library Expansion Project Frequently Asked Questions
Today is 5/29/2015
Ames Public Library
515 Douglas Avenue
Ames, Iowa 50010
The Renewal Project is a proposed plan to expand and renovate Ames Public Library at its current location. The project will increase the building from 48,000 square feet to 77,455 square feet, renovate all areas of the library, and transform this beloved community asset into the open and inviting library Ames deserves. The design for the project is based on years of planning and study along with feedback from many public forums. Artist renderings and proposed floor plans are available here.
The library addition of 1985 was planned for a life expectancy of about 15-20 years. As community needs have changed and increased over the past 25 years, several deficiencies have emerged:
- We are out of shelf space: For every new book or other item we add to the library, one has to be removed—even if it could still have a useful life.
- Library use is among the highest in the nation: Since the last addition in 1984, the number of items checked out has nearly tripled (to 1.4 million!) and the number of visitors has more than doubled. In terms of the number of items checked out, Ames stands among the top ten in the nation for communities our size.
- Safety and Security: It is difficult for staff to supervise and assist patrons in the building with its labyrinth floor plan, unnecessarily separated rooms, remote hallways, and areas of open unattended space during evening and weekend hours.
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): The current library is not in compliance with many of the recently enacted ADA standards. A renovation project will offer the opportunity to make the library a place everyone can fully enjoy.
- Meeting Spaces: The library does not have enough meeting spaces to meet the current demand from community groups. Also, library programs and other events often exceed the capacity of even our largest room.
Unfortunately, yes. Extensive interior renovation and rehabilitation will have to be done while the additions are being constructed. The construction period is expected to take from 18-24 months. (At this time, a temporary location has not been selected.)
The library will build upon the 7,000 sq. ft. section that was engineered back in 1985 to accept a second level. The vacant lot, made possible by the acquisition of the old Strand Paint Building, will allow for two levels that will be attached to the 1985 addition. A “drive-through” Bookmobile garage will be built on part of the alley between the library and the city parking lot adjacent to Fifth Street.
In addition, recessed sections of the 1984 addition will be filled in and the entry way will be constructed up to the sidewalk for safer and easier access. A second level will be constructed in the open space above the central lounge and the current Farwell T. Brown Auditorium. (A new Farwell T. Brown Auditorium will be constructed near the entrance that will be nearly twice as large with a movable partition for the option of two smaller rooms.)
The historic sections, built in 1904 through 1940, will remain intact and receive needed repairs and renovations. The interior entry way will be designed to celebrate the exterior walls of the 1909 and 1940 additions.
What will be the impact on operating costs, especially utilities and staffing, in a facility that increases in size by more than 50%?
By designing to LEED certification standards for energy efficiency, the architects anticipate that operating expenses will not increase in the larger facility. In fact, the library may realize a cost savings through drastic reduction in energy use.
Staffing the building will be more efficient in the proposed plan. Better sightlines, and staff work areas closer to the public they serve, will allow staff to observe public activities while working and assist as needed. Automated materials handling systems (now in place in many public libraries) will reduce the manual tasks of book returns, allowing staff to be redeployed to other tasks that will be required of a larger facility.
Why do we need to increase the size of the library with the growing popularity of downloadable media, such as e-books?
E-books, which are already available through Ames Public Library, promise to complement to the growing array of printed, audio, and other formats. At this time, there is no prediction by publishing industry forecasters that the current book formats will cease to exist in the foreseeable future.
Determining precise needs for the future, whether new technologies may require less or more space, and what new activities might be added, is impossible. That is why we seek a building design that allows flexibility to adapt to unforeseen future needs.
Despite predictions of the early death of the library over the past few decades, public libraries have actually realized a surge in usage. Since the introduction of the Internet as a public utility, libraries nationally are reporting increases in library visits, borrower card registrations, book lending, and program attendance. Libraries are the primary locations in most every community for public access to the Internet.
Because of the relatively small size of Ames in terms of population and square mileage, Ames does not fit the profile of a city requiring branch libraries. A second library facility would require additional staffing and a replication of many resources, such as collection, furnishings, and the overhead costs of another location. Ames Public Library will continue to serve areas throughout Ames with weekly Bookmobile stops.
The project will cost just under $20 million, which will be raised through a public-private partnership.