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Archive for Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Library director bounces satellite option

Multiple sites cheaper, Flanders says, but wouldn’t address community needs

November 28, 2006

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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.

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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.

Comments

bflanders 8 years ago

The headline, "Library director bounces satellite option," may imply that I have reintroduced the idea of satellite libraries as an alternative to expanding the library downtown. In the article itself you will see that I was responding to a question about satellites received in yesterday's online chat. The library staff and board are focused on developing a recommendation for an expanded library project in downtown Lawrence.

Bruce Flanders Library Director

Godot 8 years ago

The sub-headline is misleading. What Flanders said in the chat is that multiple sites, or even a site other than downtown that is more centrally located, would be cheaper, and would be more convenient for the public, BUT it would not serve the needs of the DOWNTOWN community.

In response to a question about moving the library to a new location south, or west, or even east, Flanders said, "So, in summary, I think your idea of a centralized location makes sense from a purely convenience / cost standpoint, but from a political and ecodevo standpoint, the downtown location is hard to argue."

Flanders made it brazenly apparent that the he and the Library Board and are working as representatives of the downtown business interests.

It is high time for the rest of the community to make it hard to argue, from a political standpoint, that city officials must consider the needs of the entire community, not just the needs of the minority who live, work or own property downtown.

We should also remind Mr. Flanders that his title is "library director," not "economic development director."

funkdog1 8 years ago

What the heck is the matter with having an "anchor" library for downtown? Why not give people a reason to go there? Do we want our downtown to go the way of so many others across the country? Downtown is in some serious need of intervention; else, we'll be spending millions more down the road to rehabilitate it.

monkeyhawk 8 years ago

When one thinks of an anchor, the names Dillard's, Penney's, Bass Pro Shop, etc. They are designed to draw people in who SPEND MONEY. They also generate taxes. A library does not take in cash, nor does it help pay for streets, schools or city services. It COSTS to build and maintain.

You may want to argue that those who would use the library would spend money downtown. But, a library has never been a destination. It is a joke to even think that because the city would be fortunate enough to get the taxpayers to cough up 15-30 million that they claim is needed, the folks will flock in throngs.

"Downtown is in some serious need of intervention; else, we'll be spending millions more down the road to rehabilitate it."..........completely absurd. What kind of a mindset is this? It is the place of the PROPERTY OWNERS to fix their properties - not the private sector. Is this what they teach up on the hill these days?

Everyone needs to take a good, hard look at their tax statements. Then, you decide if we all need to bail out private property owners like Larry Brown, Doug Compton and even Mr. Amyx. Then again, I suspect it will be a very small percentage of us who receive tax statements, since it seems like all you money gluttons are actually renters.

Godot 8 years ago

Finally we are discussing the real motive behind the push for a new library. We have gotten past the feel-good, and false, claims that it is about the children, or about learning, or even about reading. It is about meeting space, retail, and economic development.

Change the name of the project to better match its purpose. Call it "The Downtown Re-development and Re-vitalization Project." And take it out of the hands of the Library Board, because it really is not about a library at all.

dthroat 8 years ago

Thank you Mr. Flanders for at least being honest in the chat.

I am amazed that you were able to say that the ONLY reason for the overpriced expansion of the downtown library was because of DOWNTOWN Lawrence protection. You admit it would be more cost effective to build other facilities, but that would not PROTECT downtown. And you state you (the board) were given those direction by the City Commission.

The City is willing to spend OUR money for things that do not make the best economical sense. (Not really a new concept in this city)

I think this should get people fired up and demand a review of the entire process of this library/developement thing. But of course, I doubt the City Commission will ever let that happen. Got to keep the developers rich and "protect" downtown.

Like a $30 million dollar library will do that.

opnmynd 8 years ago

As a voter and tax payer I would support a new expanded library downtown. I would NOT support a library satellite branch system. I agree with Mr. Flanders that we must first bring our main library facility up to the minimum standards. A satellite system would only take precious resources away from improvements to the main facility which in its current condition is an embarrassment to the community. With all due respect to the library and city decision makers, I have to wonder why they feel they need the approval of voters for improvements to our public library. Every great community has a great public library facility at the heart of its civic pride. Why should Lawrence settle for less? I love the idea of maintaining the downtown as the cultural and civic center of Lawrence. Moving the main facilty to the geographical center of Lawrence, as proposed by some, sounds good on the surface; but is it worth robbing our downtown of its greatest civic asset so West Lawrence citizens don't have to be inconvenienced by the extra five minutes drive time to get downtown? I live in West Lawrence and enjoy some of the conveniences it offers; however, I take every opportunity to get away from suburbia and go downtown with my family. Sadly we often elect to go to Kansas City when what we want can't be found in Lawrence. The library belongs in the urban core within walking distance of the Arts Center, restaurants and shops.

Godot 8 years ago

" The library belongs in the urban core"

Urban core? LOL!!!

Godot 8 years ago

"Moving the main facilty to the geographical center of Lawrence, as proposed by some, sounds good on the surface; but is it worth robbing our downtown of its greatest civic asset so West Lawrence citizens don't have to be inconvenienced by the extra five minutes drive time to get downtown?"

Is it worth robbing the Lawrence taxpayers of over $30,000,000 to overbuild a library project to protect downtown business owners?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years ago

"Change the name of the project to better match its purpose. Call it "The Downtown Re-development and Re-vitalization Project." And take it out of the hands of the Library Board, because it really is not about a library at all."

Why can't it be about both?

opnmynd 8 years ago

I think of it rather as protecting one of the few things Lawrence has going for it, or could have going for it if people were willing to invest in it. And besides where do you think the library should go if it doesn't go downtown? And what business owners do you think should benefit from it?

"Overbuild" is an overstatement. If I remember, the current proposals have been scaled back to meet the barest minimum state standards for a library in a city the size of Lawrence. Even if we didn't build it downtown, I would imagine we would still need to spend $30 million anywhere to get it right. If we don't improve the library, or worse, we cheap out and do it in half-assed manor we'll only be robbing ourselves of an opportunity to create something special for the community. But what do I know? I'm also the kind of person who will spend a little more for quality because I enjoy the reward of having something that works great, looks great and lasts. My favorite saying says it best: "The bitterness of low quality lingers long after the sweetness of low price."

Call it a "Downtown Re-development and Re-vitalization Project" if you like. Sorry Godot, many of us actually enjoy knowing our tax dollars will go into a civic project that will also benefit a historical district that many here have grown up in and want to protect.

Godot 8 years ago

"Why can't it be about both?"

Because we cannot afford "both." In truth, we cannot afford either one at this time.

This is the kind of project a big city with lots of industry can afford. Lawrence does not fit that bill.

Bring in the industry first, and, with it, wealth; then do a fund drive for an opulent, new library. Then let private industry redevelop downtown. You want meeting space? Attract a couple of large hotels to town. You want condos and art galleries? Let the rich who can afford them, build them.

You know why private industry has not already re-developed downtown, why the interested developers say they cannot do it without public funds? Because they know they would go bankrupt if they did it on their own, because the numbers just are not there.

opnmynd 8 years ago

Who said anything about condos and art galleries? I think we are talking about a library with books, computers and meeting space available to anyone, not just those who can afford it. That's great if private wealth contributes to the cause, but ultimately the library is the responsibility of the People.

Godot 8 years ago

opnmynd, look at the first proposals that were solicited by the Board, and thus directed by the commissioners. Those proposals included lofts, condos, and thousands of square feet of additional retail.

Hear what Flanders is saying. He equates the new library with a new downtown and economic development.

Godot 8 years ago

And, openmynd, I used the term "overbuild" because Flanders openly admitted that, if the library were located somewhere else, it would cost the taxpayers much less, and would serve more of the community.

In my world, spending more than necessary to accomplish less is "over building."

opnmynd 8 years ago

Who cares what else was included in the original proposals unless you don't want those things downtown. The library is an entity in and of itself and the per square foot cost to build the required space is the same regardless of where we build it and what else gets built with it. Flanders did not say a main facility at a central location would be less expensive; he only said it would be more convenient for some residents. He did say that a multi-site satellite system would cost less, but would ultimatley be substandard if the main facility was under built and under funded. Besides don't be fooled into thinking that a satellite system would cost less. In the long run, the costs to operate, staff and maintain a multi-site system would far out run the cost of a well designed single site venue. Why would we throw money into a multi-site system that Flanders himself said would be less than adequate? That's called "short-sighted building" and should be avoided.

white_mountain 8 years ago

I think having a centralized library downtown would be a great option.

It's not that hard to drive there. Anyone with a car can easily get there.

Satellite libraries would not be very enticing to go to. I doubt they would have a great selection of books and periodicals, not to mention a nice coffee bar that a larger library downtown could support.

Godot 8 years ago

opnmynd, I do not interpret Flanders' chat statements the same way you do. You seem to have knowledge of the subject outside of the information provided by the LJW. And you seem to wish away many of Flanders' statements.

opnmynd has probably already made up his or her mind in favor of whatever the Library Board recommends.

white_mountain 8 years ago

Plus, you have more overhead expense, and staff to pay when you have several libraries instead of a single one.

opnmynd 8 years ago

The only thing that I've made my mind up about is that I would support an new library downtown. As I said earlier, if the board recommends a different location or a satellite system, I will be less likely to support their recommendation. I have read the proposals and thus I do have knowledge outside that which the LJW provides. If you haven't already, perhaps you should read them, too. They are posted for all to read on the library's web site, http://www.lawrence.lib.ks.us/newdir/index.html

Godot 8 years ago

A main library situated in a more centralized location, one that is easier to access, that has more parking, and that would require less "redeveopment" and taking of property by eminent domain, would be a positive addition to the City of Lawrence.

Godot 8 years ago

Lawrence citizens, wake up. Pay great attention to the machinations of the Public Library Board and the Library Director. If you do not, many will find themseles unable to remain in their homes because they cannot absorb the increase in property taxes imposed upon them by the city commission who works to protect the financial interersts of downtown property owners.

opnmynd 8 years ago

The site directly adjacent to the Arts Center is vacant and does not require any redevelopment or the taking of property by eminent domain. And according to proposal, the parking garage across the street was designed and built to serve the parking needs of this site. 9th and New Hampshire also just happens to be the central hub for the bus public transit system. To me it is the perfect and most obvious spot for the library, especially considering that it is also the least expensive option on the table.

white_mountain 8 years ago

I don't see why eminent domain is such a big issue. If I were living down there, I would give up my home, if it was for the greater good.

Let's not focus on the property we need to take, let's just try to focus on creating the biggest and best library that we can with the $30 million. It's not much, so we need to be smart about it.

Godot 8 years ago

white_mountain, how much moolah do you have to cough up for property taxes on December 20?

white_mountain 8 years ago

The answer is I don't pay property taxes.

However, I don't mind spending the money, if it is to be used for the public good and to educate our children.. do you?

funkdog1 8 years ago

"Downtown is in some serious need of intervention; else, we'll be spending millions more down the road to rehabilitate it."..........completely absurd. What kind of a mindset is this? It is the place of the PROPERTY OWNERS to fix their properties - not the private sector. Is this what they teach up on the hill these days?

Monkeyhawk: Uhhh... this is not a new concept, nor is it a "college" concept. (Parenthetically, what's your problem with folks "on the hill"? Too smart for ya?) Kansas City has spent MILLIONS of taxpayer dollars ($800 million?) to redevelop the Power & Light district and encourage private dollars to come back. It's the same story in city after city after city, again and again and again. Let the downtown go to hell and then spend taxpayer dollars to rehabilitate it.

This isn't just about helping out downtown, either. The current library facility NEEDS ATTENTION. Should have been done years ago.

opnmynd 8 years ago

It's just numbers, not a conspiracy. $70 million was the figure recommended by a study done by library experts to find out what it would take to get the current library up to speed. That number hasn't changed. That's simply how much it would take to build a library that will serve our growing community well into the future. These figures are based on other similarly sized communties that have recently built new libraries. Some how they managed to get it done. If we can do it for less, great; but lets not suggest there are ulterior motives by city officials just because you don't like the price tag. A $30-40 million facility is a compromise that would bring a significantly improved facility, but not the facility recommended by the original study.

white_mountain 8 years ago

A nice new library downtown with millions of books, periodicals, internet resources, and a coffee bar will be just the ticket to revitalize our beleaguered city.

Truth is, no one will want to go to a "satellite" library that's been retrofitted where a video rental store used to be.

I say build a nice new library and people will come from all over the area to take advantage of it (and hopefully spend some money downtown while they're at it).

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years ago

Looks like Godot has whipped himself into a frenzy again.

Two indisputable facts--

  1. The library needs major updating, whether it's in a new building or rehabing the existing one.

  2. Downtown has been under development for more than 150 years. It is a major investment that would probably cost upwards of a $1 billion dollars to create elsewhere.

Keeping the library downtown will do much to enhance this irreplaceable investment that has taken several generations of Lawrencians to create.

Letting it wither and die just to spite this city commission, as Godot would like to do, would be just plain stupid.

Jersey_Girl 8 years ago

opnmynd - "With all due respect to the library and city decision makers, I have to wonder why they feel they need the approval of voters for improvements to our public library." Perhaps because they need the tax dollars from the voters for the improvements? Perhaps because the voters get to VOTE for where their tax dollars go? I don't know where in West Lawrence you live that it only takes 5 minutes to get to downtown unless it is Old West Lawrence. I live on the southwest side of town and hate going downtown because it takes forever and frankly, there isn't really anything downtown to draw me there. I may swing by the library on the days when I need to go to my bank, which is located near downtown but other than that, I never go downtown. I would most certainly use a satellite branch if were located closer, even if were only as close as 9th and Iowa. Downtown Lawrence is no longer for the people who actually live here; it primarily caters to the KU students, which truly saddens me, because it used to be a great hometown downtown.

monkeyhawk 8 years ago

"Kansas City has spent MILLIONS of taxpayer dollars ($800 million?) to redevelop the Power & Light district and encourage private dollars to come back."

And..... they are incredibly worried at this point about the wisdom of their investments and if the projected numbers are actually way under budget as reported yesterday.

How big is KC? Fair to say 10 times larger than Lawrence? Fair to say the tax base is 10 times larger (at least)? Fair to say that the infrastructure of KC is sound and that the leaders encourage growth? KC is ranked third in the country for retail space, according the WSJ last week. That is what pays for whims.

"The answer is I don't pay property taxes." That is the huge problem. The ones who want all the doo dahs don't pay one thin dime for the services they demand.

white_mountain - don't you live in Utah?

monkeyhawk 8 years ago

"projected numbers are actually way under budget as reported yesterday."

Should read way OVER budget.

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