Archive for Monday, December 19, 2005

Library director makes pitch for bigger, better facility

Lawrence collection doesn’t compare favorably to peer cities; plans call for more space and computers, possibly a drive-thru

December 19, 2005


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Bruce Flanders can't lie. He has been hurting a little the last few months.

The director of the Lawrence Public Library has been making a host of presentations to community groups talking about the need for a new public library. In the plethora of PowerPoint presentations, there's always one slide that points out how Lawrence's library compares with industry-wide averages.

"It shows that compared to peer cities, we're substandard or at best just average," Flanders said. "It kind of stings a little bit."

The numbers show that Lawrence is at or below the 50th percentile in a host of key categories, including number of books, total circulation, total visitors and number of public computers.

But whatever sting those numbers cause for Flanders, he's able to quickly soothe it these days with another set of figures. Library leaders and consultants have come up with their most specific ideas yet for a new downtown library. They include a library that at 128,000 square feet would be nearly three times the size of the current building, include more than 100 additional computers, and incorporate new ideas such as a drive-up lane and specially designed rooms to keep teenagers interested in reading and learning.

"What excites me more than anything is the promise of a library facility that will satisfy the information needs of the community, and will do it in a way that the community will be proud of," Flanders said.

That is if the community is willing to buy into the idea. Library consultants are in the process of developing the first set of cost estimates to rebuild the library on its current site, and will present them to city commissioners at a study session on Jan. 4.

But consultants do have estimates that show the library's annual operating budget of approximately $2 million will need a hefty increase if a new library is built.

Bill Church, Lawrence, uses a computer at the Lawrence Public Library. Plans for a new library would include 100 additional computers.

Bill Church, Lawrence, uses a computer at the Lawrence Public Library. Plans for a new library would include 100 additional computers.

Data gathered by library consultant Jeffrey Scherer found Lawrence spends $26.23 per person for library services. He said industry-wide studies indicate that spending would need to increase to $40.47 per person to maintain a first-class library.

Flanders makes no bones about the fact that most of the increase would need to be funded by tax dollars.

"We need to get into the mindset that we need to spend more money, or else we shouldn't do this at all," Flanders said of an expansion.


But Scherer, who designs libraries across the country, said he believed there were many selling points for a new library.

First, he said, is that there is no doubt that the current library is out of room. He estimates that the library needs an additional 27,000 square feet to adequately house all of the materials it has today and to function in an efficient manner.

"Your collection size is currently maxed out," Scherer said. "One book has to be removed for every book that needs to be put on the shelf. The public is not getting the collection it deserves. And your meeting rooms right now are pathetic."

Under preliminary concepts, the space crunch would be eliminated. Plans call for the area that houses books and seating areas to grow from 24,783 square feet to 50,212 square feet. The library's collection of books would have substantial room to grow. During the next 20 years: adult fiction holdings would increase from 31,237 to 64,780; adult nonfiction from 95,615 to 163,530; young adult from 11,010 to 20,738 and pre-grade school from 80,228 to 145,953.

Meeting room space also would grow from 2,450 square feet to 15,475 square feet. The space would include one large auditorium that could seat 350 to 400 children or up to 200 adults, a small auditorium with 100 seats, two conference rooms of 30 seats each, one staff room that accommodates 30, and six quiet/study rooms that seat four people each. The library currently has a 100-person auditorium and an art gallery that can accommodate 35 people.

The number of computer terminals for users to access the Internet would grow from 47 to at least 142, including four in an expanded lobby that would be used just for checking e-mail, Scherer said.

Flanders said the lack of computers was one of the more glaring deficiencies of the current library. He said the library recently had to implement a policy that limits a person's access to a computer to two 30-minute sessions per day. He said that type of policy ran counter to the library's mission.

"We're here to serve and provide people information," Flanders said. "So when we become so full that we can't provide people full access to information, it really runs counter to all of our instincts."

Other features that are in the concept plan include:

¢ An overall interior design that looks more like a bookstore with large wide aisles to better merchandise available books, and numerous seating areas.

¢ Special teen rooms that would be designed to look like a teen's environment and would include music and possibly a stage.

¢ A drive-thru lane that would allow people to call ahead and pick up a specific book, or perhaps allow users to just tell librarians a specific subject and let them gather recommended materials.

Flanders is estimating that the new library would dramatically increase usage. He said he would plan for an increase in visitors from 550,000 today to 750,000 within two years after the library opened.

"By any standard we're going to see more people in the library, and that ultimately will be the biggest payoff for the community," Flanders said.

Next steps

But it's all dependent on city commissioners, and ultimately the public, agreeing that the multimillion dollar project is worth it. City commissioners will get their most detailed look yet at the concepts at a 9 a.m. Jan. 4 study session at the library.

Flanders will be looking for direction on whether commissioners favor the general concepts, and also whether the city is interested in partnering with members of the development community that have expressed interest in making the library part of a larger downtown redevelopment.

If commissioners continue to show support for the project, Flanders said work to create specific plans showing what a new building would look and feel like could be developed in 2006. Voters likely would be asked to go to the polls and support some sort of bond issue to fund the library in 2007. Construction could begin in 2008.


Richard Heckler 12 years, 5 months ago

Why relocate the new library?

  1. It is the most practical approach
  2. Avoids the expense of relocating the senior center and fire department
  3. Placing it at 9th and New Hampshire makes the library an ideal companion to the Arts Center
  4. Avoids the inconvenience created during construction activity
  5. Avoids the cost of rent should library need to move during construction
  6. Current location simply is not large enough no matter which scenario is chosen
  7. Expanding the parking garage at 9th and New Hampshire provides enough parking for both the Art Center and the library. Generally speaking increases use of this parking garage
  8. Would likely not increase cost of construction as retrofitting is expensive
  9. City could expand offices to the former library location
  10. A two or three story building would be a nice fit with existing new structures
  11. Would be very convenient to parents and/or children who need a place to go during class or rehearsal breaks at the art center.
  12. USD 497 could use old library space for a potion of their VO-TECH system like the world of computers.
  13. The old library would be a perfect fit for a bank or a health clinic.

The vacant lots at 9thth and New Hampshire location seem the most practical because they are vacant.

This location is neighbor to many coffee shops and/or cafe's which certainly eliminates the need for either inside the library. Food service operations require a lot of business to succeed and are usually associated with a fair amount of shrink.

A drive thru return box would be good but leave it at that.

concerned_citizen 12 years, 5 months ago

An overpaid librarian? I've never heard of such a thing. But, yes the drive through is a silly idea. More materials, computers, improved facility? Sure. I'll kick in an eighth of cent or whatever sales tax. I like our library but it can't compare with KCK or Johnson County. KCK has a larger FILM resourse than KU! The library should be as cool as the rest of downtown and not just the north end homeless warming hut (which is fine, just stay in the better ventilated areas of the library please. ty)

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 5 months ago

I'm not a big fan of drive-thrus, but materials can be reserved/checked out on-line, so a drive-thru could cut down on the amount of parking space required. Nothing says that the drive-thrus can't be used by bike-riders, either.

Janet Lowther 12 years, 5 months ago

Sales Tax? It is WAY too high as it is. A dollar of property tax only costs about seventy-five cents on account of it being deductible on the Federal income tax. A dollar of sales tax costs a dollar.

The legislature needs to sunset all local sales taxes and make 'em go back to the voters every five years (Every year would be better, but that would never fly. . .)

hodgie 12 years, 5 months ago

To Bowhunter99:

The librarians at Lawrence Public and their staff are severely underpaid (as are many librarians across the country). And whether or not there is a drive up (which is a fine idea) people are always going to call or come in and ask for recommendations for books, whether it be fiction or non-fiction. It is one of the main duties of a librarian to know the collection and be able to provide reader's advisory for patrons.

Reader 12 years, 5 months ago

What Did I Tell You?

Downtown Bound!

"It Has, Must, And Will, Stay Downtown No Where Else!" With All That Empty Space At The "Tanger", What 2 Million Dollars Can Do For A Place Like That!

I Wonder Which Relative Gets The Contract On The New Library?

Man Oh Man! "Taxes" and "More Taxes Coming Your Way!"

hodgie 12 years, 5 months ago


I never said that the librarians at LPL need a raise (although I think they do). What I said is that they are underpaid. This was in response to your statement saying that the librarians are overpaid. Your statement is completely false.

christie 12 years, 5 months ago

So Bowhunter... what is the going rate for a Librarian.

Do you know? Most Librarians hold a MLS. That stands for Masters of Library Science in case you don't know. So why don't you go and find out what someone with an MLS commands salary wise, and then check out the Salaries paid at LPL. This should be public information.

Then, tell us if they are getting 'Market Rate'.

Don't know where to get the information??? Ask a Librarian.

HUB 12 years, 5 months ago

Is it just me or are the transients taking over the library. That place smells like azz. They are rude, usually drunk, and an eye sore. I thought the library was a place for kids/students to go and study. Unless my kid is packing mace or a small firearm they are not going to the Lawrence Public Library. I say no more money goes to the library until the director cleans the place up.

On the other hand let's call the place the Salvation Army North, and the homeless can burn the books to keep warm. Just incase the left did not get it, I was kidding on the burning books comment. That might actually draw more homeless to the Lawrence area.

dviper 12 years, 5 months ago

Chad, (LJW news article writer) next time add a few more vote options like: Anywhere but downtown, or Somewhere centrally located near 23rd & Iowa. I'm sure all of the "I love downtowners", and the downtown business owners would not like to see the library moved, but it would probably be in the best interests of the overall public if it was moved.

I agree with an earlier posted comment about all the bums at the library. I have used the public library occasionally before, and after the last time of overpowering smells of urine, whiskey, and body odor, I have not been back, and don't ever plan to go back. I commented on the situation to a librarian, and the response was a flippant, "This is a PUBLIC library open to everyone". I now simply buy books for me and my children. I was really happy to see Half Price Books open a store here. We also trade and loan books with our friends and neighbors, especially children's books.

I would NOT be in favor of a tax increase for a new library. I would be in favor of 'canning' the Lawrence bus system and moving all the funding from it towards building and maintaining a new library to be built anywhere except downtown.

dex 12 years, 5 months ago

instead of a new library, i think we should spend the money on new roundabouts, things that everybody will enjoy.

what's the point of a new library when digital storage technology has progressed to the point where the text of the entire library of congress can fit in a device small enough to fit in your shirt pocket?

i'm not saying that brick-and-mortar libraries are going to be as obsolete as a 4-way stop sign, but before spending peoples' hard-earned cash on a new building perhaps some more thought is required before we end up with just another library that's better than the previous one.

hodgie 12 years, 5 months ago

I think that Lawrence is plenty expensive to live in at the moment and a tax hike is not something I look forward to, but I do think that the library needs improvement and I can't see any other way to do it.

As for digital storage, there are problems with that option. Who controls all of this data? How much are they going to archive? Do they have all of the Better Homes and Gardens, Newsweeks, etc. archived and indexed online? If they do take on this task, how long will they keep this stored? What happens if the files are somehow lost or deleted? And most of this online storage is done by companies that require a subscription. Yes, magazines and books cost money too, but with online database services the control of how long, how much, and what content they present to their subscribers is in their hands. I'd feel better if there were still hard paper copies and microfilm around in addition to digital media.

dex 12 years, 5 months ago

i didn't present any options, only an observation and a suggestion that some careful thought might be useful unless we're resigned to spending somebody else's money on something new we already have, just bigger and "better."

should we spend money on a new library, or should we spend money on a new sewer? both are nice, so maybe if we have some left over we can use it to fight legal battles against walmart. or maybe we should spend it on schools. and there's roundabouts...

i think charging a fee for the library is the most fair. let the people who use it pay for it, similar to museums and zoos.

dex 12 years, 5 months ago

in addition to a per-use fee, offer a year-long pass, again, similar to museums and zoos. then the people who run the library have a real incentive to find innovative ways to lure customers away from their money, just like everybody else. another way is to take everybody's money and tell them: it's for your own good, to the benefit of all!

but if we must build another one, then definitely put in a coffeeshop!

christie 12 years, 5 months ago

Tax the Tickets to all JayHawk Events.

Oh I know, how about setting up a police trap like the one off of K-10 when people try to go around the traffic because of JayHawk games. That's fantastic police work.

What with all the Drunks and Rapists et al our finest spend their time trapping people who try to avoid traffic backups.

How about taking 10% of the Coaches salaries that should pay for everything. Oooooh a party tax. Yes, a party tax. Every time you throw a party you have to have a license. Fine those who do not.

HUB 12 years, 5 months ago

Christie this is a post about the library not the police.

If you are wanting to discuss the police you should do it on an article about the police and should become more informed about how the local police operate. You obviously are not informed about our local police department. Detectives investigate rapists and murderers. The traffic unit officers are the one who write you tickets for going around traffic.

By the way you should not cut through private property to avoid traffic. It causes the owners of said property to call the police, which results in a ticket for you.

PS if you know where a rapist is at call the police and tell them, I am sure they would love the tip.

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