There is a significantly cheaper way to tackle Lawrence's library space crunch, although the city's top library leader is not recommending it.
Bruce Flanders, director of the Lawrence Public Library, said in a Journal-World online chat Monday that the city could build a system of three satellite libraries to complement its existing downtown library for about half of what it would cost to build a new downtown library.
Flanders, though, didn't endorse the idea because it likely would delay any action on expanding Lawrence's library service.
"It would about throw us back to square one," Flanders said. "It would be a very wrenching thing for us to consider at this point."
Library board members on Thursday are scheduled to review three proposals from private developers to build a new downtown library, and one plan for the city to build a new library on the current site. The costs for those proposals have ranged from about $20 million to $30 million.
Flanders spelled out some details of how a satellite library system could work in Lawrence when asked by a participant in the online chat. Flanders said he could envision three satellite libraries that would be around 10,000 to 20,000 square feet in storefront locations throughout the community. He said one near 23rd and Harper streets, one along South Iowa Street and another near Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive would seem appropriate.
He estimated that each location likely would cost around $1.5 million to establish. Flanders also said that about $5 million to $10 million in additions still would be needed for the downtown library to provide more space for children's and young adult services, along with a larger computer lab. Flanders emphasized that the cost estimates were rough and based only on his knowledge of the library industry.
City commissioners, though, haven't expressed much interest lately in the satellite option.
Mayor Mike Amyx said he thought commissioners remained committed to considering a new downtown library or a major expansion of the current building at 707 Vt.
Amyx said the only way he saw the satellite option advancing was if commissioners or voters deemed a $30 million downtown project to be unfeasible.
"From everything I have heard about this, I haven't heard anybody on the commission bring up the idea of satellites as a first option," Amyx said. "But I suppose it is one that could make sense in the future."
In the late 1990s the city's Library Board recommended construction of a satellite location rather than a major expansion of the downtown facility. City commissioners, though, ultimately said they wanted to focus on keeping the library as a major activity anchor for downtown.
City Commissioner David Schauner said that still was a sound strategy.
"Before you put on a second or third floor to your house, you want to make sure you have a good foundation," Schauner said. "The downtown library is that foundation. That doesn't mean it has to be a $50 million deal, but it does have to be quality space."
Flanders said during the chat that a satellite system "could work well" in Lawrence. But he also said such a system could lead to the decline of the downtown library if the satellite libraries caused it to receive less attention and funding.
He also said adding satellite libraries would not address all the library issues the community has mentioned, such as a need for more large-scale meeting space. Satellite libraries generally have few amenities and focus on providing small, high-circulation collections, along with small computer labs.
More about the library proposal
- Chat about Lawrence Public Library expansion with Bruce Flanders (11-27-06)
- Report: City loves its under-resourced library (11-26-06)
- 6News video: New report has listed Lawrence Public Library as "average"
- Scaled-back plans for public library unveiled to city (11-18-06)
- Mayor favors current library site (11-15-06)
- Public should weigh in on new library, mayor says (11-11-06)
- Long story short: Grand vision for public library scaled way back (10-22-06)
- New study will scale back design plans for library (09-27-06)