Archive for Sunday, October 10, 2010

Destination library: Voters will be asked to approve expansion of building, services

Members of the Miles family, in the foreground at right, read books in the children’s room of Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vt., before checking them out Wednesday. “We come every Wednesday,” said Melanie Miles, 8, in pink. Next to Melanie, from left, are Levi, 3; their mother, Sandra Miles; and Jacob, 4, all from Lawrence.

Members of the Miles family, in the foreground at right, read books in the children’s room of Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vt., before checking them out Wednesday. “We come every Wednesday,” said Melanie Miles, 8, in pink. Next to Melanie, from left, are Levi, 3; their mother, Sandra Miles; and Jacob, 4, all from Lawrence.

October 10, 2010

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of four stories centering on the proposal to expand the Lawrence Public Library. In the Nov. 2 election, voters will be asked to approve $18 million for the library, an amount that would be paid back through property taxes during the next 20 years.


Aron Cromwell’s knuckles soon will be put to the test.

$18 million library expansion will show up on Nov. 2 ballot

The plan for the 38-year-old building is cheaper than a plan proposed earlier this decade. Enlarge video

Priscilla Howe sings “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” with the help of a puppet Saturday, Oct. 9, 2010, at the Lawrence Public Library’s River City Reading Festival.

Priscilla Howe sings “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” with the help of a puppet Saturday, Oct. 9, 2010, at the Lawrence Public Library’s River City Reading Festival.

Lawrence voters will go to the polls on Nov. 2 to decide the fate of an $18 million proposal to expand Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vt.

Cromwell is confident it will pass because his knuckles tell him so.

Cromwell, a Lawrence city commissioner, was running for his first term in office in 2009 when he realized Lawrence voters were about as familiar with him as they were with the Mizzou alma mater. So, with his wife and son away from the house for about a month, he walked the city and knocked on 3,000 doors.

“I just asked them what they thought needed improvement in Lawrence, and the library was the number one issue they told me,” Cromwell said.

(Sidewalks were second, in case you’re wondering.)

So after winning his election, Cromwell started planting the seeds for another one. He became the commission’s liaison to the Lawrence Public Library Board and began preaching to the choir that the library needed an expansion.

Next month — more than a year after his knocking and several recession scars later — Lawrence voters will decide whether the library still ranks as high on their priority list. Even though the project would require a tax increase, Cromwell is betting that it will win because voters won’t like the alternative.

“We’re going to have to increase the amount of money we’re spending on the library because what we’re doing now is just not sustainable,” Cromwell said. “If the amount doesn’t go up, the service will have to go down. I don’t think that is something we’ll accept in this community.”

The plan

For those of you who have been following the library’s proposal about as closely as you followed “War and Peace” in literature class, here’s a review of what’s up for approval:

• The $18 million plan would require a property tax increase of 1.5 mills for 20 years to pay for the construction of the building. It would require another 0.5 mill increase to operate the larger library. A mill is one dollar in property tax for every $1,000 in assessed valuation. For the owner of a $170,000 home — which is about the average in Lawrence — a two-mill increase would be result in property taxes rising by about $39 per year.

• The library would grow by about 20,000 square feet to about 66,500 square feet, and all areas would be upgraded. The existing library would be extended about 30 feet closer to Vermont Street. New space also would stretch south down Vermont and into parts of the existing parking lot.

• The children’s area of the library would double in size and include a separate space for young adults.

• The amount of floor space for books and other items would increase by 20 percent in the expanded library.

• A three-level parking garage would be built on a portion of the current parking lot. The garage would have 250 spaces, up from 125 today. Parking would account for about $4.3 million of the project’s costs.

• Meeting space in the library would double, and would be arranged to allow for up to nine meeting rooms and six reading rooms, with some overlooking adjacent Watson Park.

• A drive-through book drop-off and service window would be added to the west side of the library.

• The reconfigured library would have room for 100 additional public access computers.

“Our goal is for the library to be warm and inviting,” said Bruce Flanders, director of the library. “I think people get that feeling now, but it mainly comes through the people who work here. With this, the building would fit that image better. It will be a place that is more of a destination.”

Flanders said he’s confident that if the expansion is completed, the library’s already-growing visitation numbers would experience a major spike.

“I would be very surprised if we didn’t see an increase of 25 percent in our usage in just a couple of years,” Flanders said.

The need

Growing numbers largely are at the heart of library leaders’ desire for a larger facility.

The predictable number that has grown is the age of the current library, which is at Seventh and Vermont street. It is now 38 years old, and Flanders frequently reminds people that Lawrence’s population back when the library was built is half the size it is today.

The less predictable number is 510,000. That’s the number of visits made to the library in 2009. The number was up 8 percent from 2008.

“It is an interesting paradox,” Flanders said. “We’re in an increasingly digital age, but our numbers are going gangbusters.”

Numbers are up in a variety of categories. Circulation — the number of items checked out at the library — topped 1.3 million, which was an 11 percent increase. Attendance at library programs topped 40,000 and was up 12 percent.

The number of meetings held at the library grew by 6 percent to 535. The less encouraging number, Flanders said, is that the library turned away 191 additional meetings due to lack of space.

But there is one declining number that also is driving the library debate. Flanders said the city’s funding for the library hasn’t kept up with the city’s population growth. As a result, Lawrence’s per capita funding for libraries now ranks seventh out of the 10 largest cities in the state, according to the most recent report from the Kansas State Data Center (which is based on 2008 numbers).

Lawrence spent $34.14 per person on library funding, which put the city ahead of only Garden City and Wichita. Lawrence was well behind top-spender Topeka, which spent $88.43 per person. Every city, though, was well behind Topeka. Excluding Topeka, Lawrence was about $3 below the average or about $6 below the median. The current proposal would add about $1.7 million to the library’s annual budget, or about $18 per person, based on Lawrence’s most recent population estimates.

To Flanders, in a community where education is its largest industry, Lawrence’s current low ranking doesn’t speak well.

“I feel like it is kind of a sad commentary,” Flanders said.

The concerns

Some Lawrence residents, though, believe we’re in sad economic times.

Thus far, no formal group has emerged to oppose the library bond issue. But Jim Mullins, a field director for the government-watchdog group Americans for Prosperity, said his organization is actively considering mounting an opposition campaign.

“If we take a position on it, it would be to turn it down,” Mullins said. “We don’t think now is the time to raise taxes.”

Mullins said the timing is terrible for a Lawrence tax increase. If approved, it would mark the third straight year that Lawrence residents have seen a local tax increase. In 2009, a 0.55 percent sales tax increase — approved by voters — took effect. In November of this year — about the time voters go to the polls — property tax bills will include a 2.9-mill increase for Douglas County government and a 2-mill increase for Lawrence public schools. If the 2-mill increase for the library is approved, it would show up on property tax bills in November 2011.

Mullins said the tax increases run counter to the new trend of the private sector spending less and saving more.

“Saving is what government should be doing at every level,” Mullins said. “We’re trying to hold things close to our belt, and you guys are not. That’s the message we should be sending to government.”

But Cromwell said the library has taken steps to make the proposal financially responsible. When the library last considered a new project in 2006, it recommended a $30 million project. Cromwell said both the costs and the size have shrunk out of concern for the economy.

Cromwell also said he believes city government is in a good financial position to take on the project. Unlike other governments, the city hasn’t significantly increased its mill levy since 2003, has reduced the number of city employees, and has not dipped into its reserve funds to balance budgets.

The library project, coupled with the already approved sales tax to bolster city streets and infrastructure, will put Lawrence in a good position to attract new residents and businesses once the economy improves.

“It is time to take the lead,” Cromwell said. “The city has to be built for the future. This is the time to do it. When this recession is over, we’re going to be sitting here ready to showcase our community as one that is prosperous.”


WHY 7 years, 7 months ago

Vote no. Save your money and buy the books you want yourself. If the library needs some repairs fine, but increasing parking for the pool and making more room for the homeless to hang out is not a good use of limited resources. Some developer is going to make a fortune off this plan. One reason we spend less on our library is that they are not counting all of the libraries we have on KU campus which are open to the public. Anyone can get a card and use the campus libraries. We probably have more books per person in this town already.

lelly 7 years, 7 months ago

There is a fee to receive a KU library card.

WHY 7 years, 7 months ago

I think it is $10. 18 million will buy a few passes.

impska 7 years, 7 months ago

I'm not sure why voting no would stop me from using the library in it's current form - which is perfectly serviceable.

Kansas_Girl 7 years, 7 months ago

A local university doesn't equal going cheap on a community's library - look at Manhattan, or Columbia. Their libraries are MUCH nicer than Lawrence's. In addition, a university doesn't replace the need for a public library. There is no children or teen section at a university library, etc.

WHY 7 years, 7 months ago

Then expand the kid section at the public and tell the big people to go to a grown up library. Or tell the kids to start reading books without pictures. The down side is that there will not be a lot of extra computers on campus for the homeless to hang out on, and the dvd section is not as good. But netflix and a job fix most of that.

beezee 7 years, 7 months ago

Since when does NICE equal Quality!? Dear me-- we're falling behind in the NICE criterion!! Come back in a few years when the economy (maybe) is better and we'll discuss the cost effectiveness of "nice."

Richard Heckler 7 years, 7 months ago

Americans for Prosperity oppose all tax dollar use except those going to corporate welfare.

Free Lunch, Corp Welfare, Bill Moyers and David Cay Johnston

skinny 7 years, 7 months ago

Vote NO!! Everything is going digital anyway. Read it online!

Repair the Library, there is nothing wrong with the building or location we have now.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 7 months ago

"When this recession is over, we’re going to be sitting here ready to showcase our community as one that is prosperous.” This is not as important as simply doing what the city should have been doing all along. That is maintaining a valuable existing resource instead of ignoring this valuable resource.

Commissioner Cromwell,

I believe you and the other city commissioners should provide an option B plan for the financing.

That would be allowing a portion of the 1995 1 cent sales tax money to be used to finance this expansion that is absolutely necessary.

Let's introduce a fiscally responsible taxpayer friendly proposal. Options the city can live with that include no increase in taxes. Hats off to this concept.

The one cent sales tax that was approved in 1995 can generate up to $14,036,301 as of 2009. Obviously more in better years

The city portion of the county 1% sales tax can generate up $8,609,331 as of 2009 obviously more in better years.

The two together = $22,645,672 again obviously more in better years. So I say let’s use a portion of this to finance our library reconstruction. Let’s use 10% of this tax dollar revenue annually.

Choice: A. City/County tax revenue combined using 10% annually = 2,264,567. 20 for 10 years = project paid off with existing sales tax revenue

B.City sales tax only using 10% annually of city tax revenue only = $1,403,630.10 for 15 years with existing sales tax revenue

C. personal property tax increase ….. my last but least desirable choice.

Let the voters decide. The tax dollars after all belong to we the tax paying citizen. City Hall would need to adjust it's spending accordingly with regard to future park and rec projects. I think taxpayers could live with that.

Either choice provides financing for the expansion. A win win solution.

Al Deathe 7 years, 7 months ago

Stop with the new taxes! Has anyone stops to look at how much one dollar is taxed between the time you earn it and once it is spent. As far as Lawrence goes they have wasted so much money on social projects the city is falling apart and it not because Lawrence or Douglas County has low taxes. Stop the new taxes and use the present tax income on the City infrastructure that has been ignored for years due to self imposed entitlements.

mr_right_wing 7 years, 7 months ago

Under the current economic conditions NO!

When things eventually turn around and people are working again; by all means!

This is a 'luxury' we cannot afford right now.


FreshAirFanatic 7 years, 7 months ago

I'd like to see a breakdown of what's checked out. DVDs/CDs vs Books. I can't count the number of times I've seen someone bring in a stack of movies/music and leave with another.

Why are we funding someone's entertainment?

jafs 7 years, 7 months ago

Franklin's original idea was that a library house non-fiction materials.

Nikki May 7 years, 7 months ago

I have seen the meeting rooms used. Specifically, the bigger one is used for children's events. This summer and over spring break, I saw children turned away from some great events because it was over crowded. I was broken hearted for these little ones who just wanted in, but couldn't. Honestly though, that was the only upgrade I would be very happy with. So, since it IS all our nothing, and as broken hearted as I was to see kids outside of that room, I'll likely have to vote no right now.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 7 months ago

"I do not see evidence of over-crowding, nor do I see the meeting room just inside to door being used that often."

If you drive Iowa or 6th or 23rd streets at 2 in the morning, there's no indication that they need to be 5-lane roads, either. Should we scale them back, and ignore the traffic that's there at peak periods?

booyalab 7 years, 7 months ago

Yeah, I'm in the library all the time too. The busiest it ever gets is outside during the book sale, when people have to pay money but they get to keep the books. (what does that tell you? maybe, that just because you've built it, doesn't mean they'll come) This request for an expansion isn't needs-based.

sundowner 7 years, 7 months ago

My knuckes hurt. I'm almost 100% sure I won't get a raise this year!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 7 months ago

“If we take a position on it, it would be to turn it down,” Mullins said. “We don’t think now is the time to raise taxes.”

When does Mullins think would be a good time to raise taxes, given that the only discernible goal of AFP is to eliminate taxes and government if it doesn't support the interests (and profits) of the Koch brothers.

texburgh 7 years, 7 months ago

Absolutely right. AFP is a wholly owned subsidiary of Koch Industries. They founded and funded the organizatioin.

And further AFP opposes all taxes all the time for any reason. (Except the taxes that paid their executive director when he was a full time government employee working for extreme right republican legislators or the thousands in tax dollars that were used as parting gifts to him and his wife when they left government employment to take on anti-government advocacy.)

AFP and it's sister organizations the Kansas Policy Institute and the Center for Applied Economics long for a day when ignorant Americans vote the Kochs' economic self interest and not their own. And they appear to be winning.

Right now of course, AFP and their friends rare running as fast as they can from revelations that their darlings like Arlen Siegfreid and Sam Brownback are supporting plans to cap state funding for schools and transfer responsibility to local property taxes.

chicago95 7 years, 7 months ago

I have been a user and supporter of libraries all my life, but the justifications offered so far for expanding the downtown library seem superficial and uncompelling. - What are the arguments for expanding the central library rather than building branches? - Who exactly uses the library? By age? By neighborhood? From library card data, we ought to be able to see a detailed map. Compare library users to general population densities. - Which library services and programs are used or attended? We are entitled to much more specific quantitative information. - Demonstrate that the recent increase in demand is part of a longer-term trend rather than a response to the economic recession. - What other downtown locations do library patrons visit on the same trip? (This influences parking facility planning.) - Aside from just adding more desktop computers -- not exactly ground-breaking in itself -- what evidence is there that our library is anticipating changes in the technology and culture of information creation and retreival? What can we learn from the experience of hard-copy book sellers, newspapers and periodicals?

I am desperately seeking a reason to vote "Yes."

Edwin Rothrock 7 years, 7 months ago

I agree. Building a branch somewhere out West would allow for a much broader audience. From a 2006 chat with Bruce Flanders, "Satellite libraries, which I envision as leased, tenant-finish spaces in a strip mall, for example, with a size of 10,000-20,000 square feet each, would cost, in my estimation, around $1.5 million each to establish (including technology, furnishings, equipment, shelving, and an opening day collection), and then, of course, less in following years to maintain."

My family has spent a lot of time devoted to libraries, but I'm not convinced this is the right solution.

jafs 7 years, 7 months ago

It would cost even less to simply establish an annex, for meeting space and reference materials, thus not needed check-out capacity, in the Tanger mall.

That would serve the purpose of freeing up space in the current library, and easing some of the parking issues.

In addition, many people would not need to go to both locations most of the time - someone doing reference research or attending a meeting would just go to the annex, and someone getting books (both child and adult) and/or CD's, DVD's, etc. would simply go to the main location.

KarenJo 7 years, 7 months ago

For those who are saying that now is not the right time for this project, I would suggest you read this week's Newsweek's column, "If You Build It...Now's the time to invest in infrastructure." In it, columnist Ezra Klein writes that smart governments are acting now to improve their public buildings and infrastructure. Construction materials and borrowing costs have never been lower. "That means a dollar of investment today will go much further than it would have five years ago -- or than it's likely to go five years from now."

So let's seize this opportunity and improve our library. It not only is needed, but it also is a wise investment.

WHY 7 years, 7 months ago

Then now is a great time to invest in roads, sidewalks, and money to develop business and job opportunities. A deal is not a deal if you don't need the item in the first place. The very smartest governments will be tightening budgets and lowering taxes to prepare for the future uptick in economic activity. Now is time to focus and get ready for the great future lawrence can have instead of forcing us deep into debt for a fancier version of what we all ready have. Vote to lower taxes by 2 mil. VOTE NO

shadowlady 7 years, 7 months ago

You have a good head on your shoulders, what you said is true, " a deal is not a deal, if you don't need the item"

kansasredlegs 7 years, 7 months ago

Vote NO to help our retirees and elderly homeowners living on fixed meager incomes.

shadowlady 7 years, 7 months ago

vote NO to help our retirees and elderly homeowners living on fixed meager incomes?????? These people DO need our help. Some I know, they may have a roof over their heads, and their house is paid off, but they have been paid off years ago, and now do not have the money for repairs , whether it be siding or plumbing, or whatever. And being on a low fixed income, means they sure couldn't afford to make payments from a loan, TO get their house repaired.

jafs 7 years, 7 months ago

That's the point.

If taxes go up, that may hurt elderly folks living on Social Security (which is not getting a COLA this year) more than others.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 7 months ago

"I will vote against any spending measure in this town until our streets are fixed."

There was a one half cent sales tax voted in to do streets,hike and bike paths and hopefully sidewalks.

If the city would stop expanding water and sewer lines and stop approving new neighborhoods we don't need and cannot afford there just might be money for the necessities.

Zachary Stoltenberg 7 years, 7 months ago

except merril, it was also coupled with a threat that all these poor disabled folks would die without the bus system that no one else rides. Millions and millions of dollars from this increase are wasted on the EmpTy. Why would I vote to yet again increase my taxes, by your own word the city is already squandering the last thing we approved. You can't have it both ways and there is no Copy-Paste that can fix that.

kansasredlegs 7 years, 7 months ago

I vote and I vote NO.

So, Topeka outspends Lawrence by more than twice the amount. Funny, I don't hear everyone running to Topeka because of its better educational opportunities, its library, etc.

Send a message to our Commissioners, who were gutless on this issue, that no more taxes unti we have a better economy. In almost every yard in which I see a "Vote Yes" sign, I see a "Holland" sign and what strikes me as funny is that Holland is proposing school financing reform & increased spending after the economy improves. Seems the "Vote Yes" crowd cannot understand that.

nobody1793 7 years, 7 months ago

I'm curious what could be done with $9M as opposed to $18M--A 20-year payback seems like an awfully long time. Does the $18M budget include the inevitable upgrades/maintenance that will occur during this time or is this entirely up-front cost?

Simply saying that you proposed $30M a few years ago doesn't mean that the $18M is fiscally responsible. $4.3 Million to increase parking by 125 spaces = $34,000 per parking spot?! What other options were considered?

I want to support the library, but I'm struggling.

jafs 7 years, 7 months ago


Especially the part that the fact that an even larger increase was previously proposed not meaning the current proposal is good.

Centerville 7 years, 7 months ago

Take a trip to the Topeka library and see what 100 more public access computers will add to the quality of our library. Just don't break the speed limit on your trip back to advance vote "No".

booyalab 7 years, 7 months ago

but facebook is important! because social networking...and farmville....and stuff.

Zachary Stoltenberg 7 years, 7 months ago

I'm all for supporting our library system, however the proposed changes and the price tag are absolutely ridiculous. Lawrence should build a new, smaller, branch library on the west side of town. We don't need to build a parking garage for the Eldridge and the swimming pool. And the 18 million dollar price tag could almost build an entirely new building. Renovation is always more expensive. Building a small branch library, with a community room, children's library, and reference section could be done for much, much less than 18 million and would better serve the ENTIRE community rather than the concentrated homeless population. It would look great next to the proposed community theater and Lowes out in Bauer Farms. ;)

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 7 months ago

"We don't need to build a parking garage for the Eldridge and the swimming pool."

While I'm not enthralled with providing Eldridge with parking (and I'm not as sure as you that that's what would happen with it) during peak hours at the swimming pool, parking is definitely inadequate.

Zachary Stoltenberg 7 years, 7 months ago

Despite the lack of adequate parking at this location already identified by you and others, the city has approved an expansion of the Eldridge, another dozen or so rooms I believe, as well as an expanded restaurant/bar we also have two new restaurants on that street as well as the upcoming renovation of the old Carnegie library. Not to even mention the 9 story apartments going in at 9th and New Hampshire that has NO on site parking. In fact, none of these projects have on site parking, all of them require an increase in the occupancy of those spaces that would by code necessitate additional parking. It is not my responsibility as a tax payer to pay for the development of a parking garage to ease the burden created by irresponsible development of down town. You may not be sure what it will be used for but I'm pretty convinced.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 7 months ago

Unlike the big-box/strip mall commercial districts in town, businesses downtown, with a few exceptions, all share city-provided parking.

Perhaps some new policy needs to be created over who can rely solely on city parking, and who needs to provide their own. But in the meantime, that's how things are.

BTW, the Eldridge provides valet parking. Does anyone know where those cars get parked?

jafs 7 years, 7 months ago

So build a little more parking for the swimming pool.

A lot cheaper, no?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 7 months ago

I assume it'd still cost $4.3 million, and would do nothing to expand the library.

jafs 7 years, 7 months ago

$4.3 million is about 1/4 of the proposed increase.

And your comment was that parking for the swimming pool was inadequate.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 7 months ago

It is, and when the pool is busy, it's also inadequate for the library, the seniors' center and anyone else in that part of downtown.

I don't think they are including the parking garage merely to pad the deal. I believe they believe that both are needed, although opinions obviously very on each.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 7 months ago

And while I can understand why you want a library nearby to your new W. Lawrence location, a good library system still needs a strong central location, and the current library can no longer adequately provide that. I believe one reason for scaling back from the $30 M plan to this one is that satellite libraries are expected in the future.

jafs 7 years, 7 months ago

His idea is quite good.

It is not so much a branch with full facilities as an annex, which I've proposed numerous times over the years.

For example, we could simply create a space with meeting rooms and reference material, which would not need any check-out capability.

By separating out some functions, we would free up space and parking space at the current location.

I'd like to see the city simply lease some space in the Tanger mall (since it's been so vacant for so many years, they should be able to get a pretty good deal there) - it has parking and a number of decently sized spaces.

It's not far from downtown, so if one wanted to go to both places, it wouldn't be that much of a burden - and, if the functions it serves are carefully selected, most people won't need to do that most of the time anyway.

Sunny Parker 7 years, 7 months ago

Vote NO! It would be cheaper to buy each and every person who uses the library a computer!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 7 months ago

Not everybody who uses the library, or an expanded version of it, does so for computer access.

impska 7 years, 7 months ago

It would be cheaper to buy them a computer and every book they wanted that was not already available at the library. Also every educational DVD, book-on-CD, and magazine.

18M buys a lot of stuff.

Mari Aubuchon 7 years, 7 months ago

Yet there in NO mention of expansion of the collection.

justsaying 7 years, 7 months ago

I will be voting yes. We use the library for books, movies etc. If I use a service or have an expectation of receiving a service OR I believe generally that people should have access to the service, then I feel I should pay my part. Buying books isn't realistic for many and would mean our family would read less. You don't know if a book is good until you read it. If a library has the book, then multiple people read the same copy; which is practical in its "recycling" nature. As for electronic books, the library could still make those available for checkout instead of buying the download on-line. There is a family joy in going to the library.... you don't get that on-line. I also believe that businesses that consider Lawrence consider our services as well as streets, sidewalks, schools and crime levels.

alm77 7 years, 7 months ago

" then I feel I should pay my part." They take donations.

I love the library, my family uses the library, but this increase is too much at the wrong time. It's hard to vote no, but I think that's the right vote for right now. :(

justsaying 7 years, 7 months ago

I respect that. That may be what this issue comes to. Instead of broad support from the community, they may need to rely on any donations they can obtain.

alm77 7 years, 7 months ago

I'm sure my late fees help some, as well as the fact that we went to the book sale, but yeah, they need to do a private fundraiser drive.

no_thanks 7 years, 7 months ago

You are paying your are all property owners to the tune of $3.5 Million per year. Isn't that enough money to not only operate the library, but to support the debt service required to give the library a facelift, invest in technology, and invest in the children's section? If not, then I think its time for new people with a little financial background to get on the Library Board.

parrothead8 7 years, 7 months ago

But if you're using the library for books, movies, etc. now, doesn't that imply that is is currently meeting your needs? So the percentage of your taxes that already go to the library are sufficient, correct? Why pay more?

justsaying 7 years, 7 months ago

More access to current offerings with the understanding that maintenance, technology and parking are needed. Do you use the library? I'm asking because I was wondering what your experience has been; positive or negative.

Lori Nation 7 years, 7 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

onceinawhile 7 years, 7 months ago

I'm conflicted. I love libraries, but this is so much money and I agree with others that some of the details of the expansion don't seem very convincing.

Libraries in other nearby towns -- Manhattan, Topeka, KC -- are so much bigger and nicer than Lawrence's. How are they making it work? I have never heard of them raising taxes to support their growth. Shouldn't the library be able to expand from the money they make on patrons?

onceinawhile 7 years, 7 months ago

I would be very interested in any library expansion in other cities being compared to ours. For example, the Manhattan Public Library's website says their last expansion cost $3.7 million. That's 20% of the cost of our proposed expansion.

jafs 7 years, 7 months ago

What money?

Late fees?

There are no fees for getting a library card, or checking out any of the material there.

Jimo 7 years, 7 months ago

Move the "strong central location" elsewhere in Lawrence. The present site - the most expensive land per square inch in Lawrence - could fund purchase of a different site on cheaper land AND make significant contribution to funding the various upgrades instead of additional taxes.

I will not agree to any library project at its current site. It was bad enough that officials insisted on placing the swimming pool in such a poorly chosen location. Let's not double-down on our poor site-location judgment. What's next: a proposal to locate a Lowe's in Riverside Park?

jafs 7 years, 7 months ago

Yes, the fact that the lot serves too many functions is exactly why parking is difficult there.

impska 7 years, 7 months ago

It's true, you could probably bulldoze the library, pave it over for more parking, then build a bigger library elsewhere for cheaper than 18M.

jayhawklawrence 7 years, 7 months ago

So what next? A sports and recreation complex?

What is the next cannot live without it boondoggle idea?

Right in front of our eyes we see the curious habit of short term in office government officials raising our cost of living beyond our means. Isn't that the problem with government?

We didn't elect you so you could make our lives harder. We elected you to manage the city not spend it into a deeper hole.

My prediction on this exactly. People that don't have to pay property taxes are going to push us into paying more property tax for another idiot's ego to get stroked.

Hoots 7 years, 7 months ago

They do pay those taxes but they don't think so. They don't realize that $50 a month increase in rent was to cover higher taxes. The cost do get passed down.

Centerville 7 years, 7 months ago

I haven't seen the line item projected costs, but Topeka has had to hire full time security. The biggest quality problem at the Lawrence library is parents screaming at children or letting their children scream at them. Until our librarians get tougher, we're just begging for wretchedness if we turn our library into a community rec center.

jayhawklawrence 7 years, 7 months ago

The habit that government has in spending what they don't have is worse than heroin.

If it is such a wonderful idea, there are probably seriously wealthy people somewhere interested in providing money for the project.

Remember Andrew Carnegie? His name is on a lot of buildings.

Americans are sick of government irresponsibility and corruption. Seriously sick of it.

jafs 7 years, 7 months ago

Well, they won't spend it if they don't get it, via taxes.

That's a different animal than deficit spending, which is an obviously terrible idea.

And, irresponsibility and corruption are also different things - they are putting the idea of expansion on the ballot so the community can vote on it - democracy in action. If you don't like the idea, vote no.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 7 months ago

"So what next? A sports and recreation complex?" Yes that is the Chamber of Commerce plan for your tax dollars. Out on taxpayer owned land aka UDS 497 and park property in southeast Lawrence.

This library has been neglected for too many years. Time to give it serious maintenance and make it better.

jafs 7 years, 7 months ago

Maintenance is different from expansion.

Some years back, they spent a fair amount on new lighting, etc. As someone who used the library on a regular basis, I found the improvements not worth the costs - it didn't improve my experience there much at all.

If we were talking about things like keeping the carpets clean (which they don't seem to do, especially in the room right off of the front door), or having the heating/cooling systems serviced, I'd be in favor of it.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 7 months ago

"As someone who used the library on a regular basis, I found the improvements not worth the costs - it didn't improve my experience there much at all."

I believe a major reason for the lighting improvements was to decrease electrical usage.

jafs 7 years, 7 months ago

That's interesting - the new lights were significantly brighter than the old ones.

They could simply have replaced any incandescent bulbs with compact flourescents which would have lowered electric usage, and been much less expensive.

Do you know for a fact that the new lighting used less power?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 7 months ago

I don't remember any specifics, but I doubt that there were many incandescents in the old lighting system.

Fluorescent fixtures of 40 or so years ago were much less energy efficient than the lighting systems available today, and modern bulbs are much longer lasting.

Keith 7 years, 7 months ago

"• A three-level parking garage would be built on a portion of the current parking lot. The garage would have 250 spaces, up from 125 today. Parking would account for about $4.3 million of the project’s costs. "

Time to sell the naming rights. How much to name the new parking garage, The Eldridge Parking Garage?

cowboy 7 years, 7 months ago

The library is in a place in time where it should sustain itself or become a relic. with the advent of technology, it has become an aged dinosaur. Let's be honest.

Charge a user fee equivalent to the property tax annually and see what happens to the user visit numbers. 39 bucks per household per year. Let the reserve pile up then you can spend it.

If in fact the library has morphed into an entertainment distributor for the cheap or poor then it is not serving it's original purpose. If it has become the community computer terminal , then state it as such and move forward with a completely different approach.

jafs 7 years, 7 months ago

Interesting idea about the annual fee - it would be about $3/month.

Franklin's original idea was for a library to contain only non-fiction - do you think we should return to that as the "original purpose"?

justsaying 7 years, 7 months ago

What do you mean by "cheap or poor"? The library serves anyone who wants to use it.

volunteer 7 years, 7 months ago

Topeka's library is too big and grandiose. Instad of one, there are two librarians sitting at every "help" kiosk chatting with one another. (But try to get them to get out of their chairs and help you find something...)

And recently the head honchos cut in half the amount they were spending on new acquisitions order to make budget room to bring staff wages to the national average. Can't have such a fine facility and employees not earning the national average for librarians.(55 grand plus benefits, I believe; are our teachers at national average? Our plumbers or carpenters?)

So build it and the wages of those working there will rise more than the availability of books and rooms, I betcha.

George Lippencott 7 years, 7 months ago

In my front yard is a pro-library sign. Libraries are important and we need to support them. However, once again I am being faced with a false dilemma. Ask yourself a couple of questions.

Given the close to 30% city tax increase in the last decade (despite Mr. Cromwell’s comment) why do we need to increase our taxes more to do this. Libraries should be a high priority and be funded ahead of some of the other stuff upon which we waste tax money

Why is the library carrying the water for a big garage (25% of the bill)? It would seem to me that many merchants will benefit from increased parking on that side of town (matching parking edifices). A more equitable approach would be to create a special tax district to pay for the garage.

Here is another example of government messing with us. A worthwhile project is fattened up with unrelated lard to support the business community. It is kind of like the “T”. We voted to provide another revenue stream and the city just absorbed the previous funding stream for other wants (like corporate welfare in West Lawrence).

In my day in the government, we called these “gold watches”. You lead with the most attractive project to protect marginal projects from public scrutiny. Government gets more power and resources and the taxpayers feel they “did good”. See my blog at:

irvan moore 7 years, 7 months ago

i love the library, i hate the plan. it's NOT a library parking lot, it's a city parking lot. the commissioners know they can't get voters to approve more downtown parking for business and are tying the parking lot to the library plan to fund future development downtown. the voters are being deceived, shame on Flanders and the commissioners.

Prairielander 7 years, 7 months ago

What's wrong with future downtown development?

jafs 7 years, 7 months ago

The point was that we are being sold the library expansion, but are in fact sneakily funding something else.

If they want to put a tax on the ballot to support downtown parking expansions for future development, they should do that - it would be more honest.

Centerville 7 years, 7 months ago

There are two librarians at every desk in Topeka for protection. Especially during those "in-service' days that schools are closed. Taxpayers shouldn't be stuck with someone else's babysitting bills.

starburst 7 years, 7 months ago

I rarely visit the library. The location is not convenient, and I usually prefer to purchase my books and music (new or used) rather than check them out. I do use the KU library system for academic materials. Still, with that said, I plan to vote YES for the library addition. I am proud to live in Lawrence because we are an educated and progressive community. Literacy and arts education are a central component of this. I am willing to pay an extra $40 to $50 a year in taxes ($3-$4 a month? the price of an ice cream cone or latte?) in order to improve the opportunities for all members of my community. Many residents cannot afford to purchase books, music, and movies, but deserve equal access. I understand that this is a difficult time to raise taxes. My husband and I have not received a raise in nearly four years, yet our health insurance, food costs, and everything else have continued to climb. Money is always a concern, and I'm careful about my purchases. However, I believe in a literate society. I want all people to have access. People use our library for many reasons from self improvement to entertainment. For some, this is the only access they have to the Internet. Many jobs, including ALL of those at KU, require online application. Without free access at the library, many of our residents would not even be able to apply for jobs in their own community. I don't want higher taxes, but I do believe in supporting literacy and providing equal access. Don't let this become, even more than it already is, a community of haves and have nots. We need to find a middle ground for everyone.

LadyJ 7 years, 7 months ago

There are many elderly that don't have $3 or $4 for a latte or ice cream cone. Every dime of my mom's Social Security check went for her medicine. My dad's Social Security barely covered everything else. A large chunk of his had to be set aside for taxes and insurance, then there was the bills on top of that. Not all taxpayers or middle aged or younger. They can go out and work part time if they absolutely have to, the elderly cannot.

mr_right_wing 7 years, 7 months ago

I'm going to repeat this...

Bring this issue back up in 2 years, if things have significantly turned around economically and more folks have jobs; I'll be happy to put a check mark by "yes"! (Is the building litterally going to crumble in two years? Will people stop going to the library because there is not expansion in the next two years?)

Until then, no, no and no!!

WHY 7 years, 7 months ago

We should require the library to stock a personal finance and econ 101 books in the lobby.

pea 7 years, 7 months ago

It's a shame that if we don't take out this enormous loan the library as it stands will implode and then no one will have access to books, movies or internet. I don't like it anymore than you but it seems our only choice is to vote yes.

Centerville 7 years, 7 months ago

Good grief, pea! Nothing is going to implode. If we don't raise taxes for this, the library will continue as usual. The only difference will be that even more space will be taken up with propaganda whining for more money.

jayhawklawrence 7 years, 7 months ago

Since you brought it up.


(n.) The act of corrupting or of impairing integrity, virtue, or moral principle; the state of being corrupted or debased; loss of purity or integrity; depravity; wickedness; impurity; bribery.


Showing lack of care for consequences

This city commission, by allowing this to be put on the ballot at a time when unemployment in this country is at or above 10% and when the foreclosure rate on homes is as high as it has ever been since the Great Depression and at a time when we have a multitude of problems taking proper care of our citizens and providing basic services, has proven that they have no qualifications to manage the budget of the city of Lawrence.

I do not know if this city commission is corrupt, but I know that the political environment that we are currently viewing is corrupt. All we hear are lies in the media all day long. We have entered a period when you are probably guilty until proven innocent if you are involved in politics.

jafs 7 years, 7 months ago

One could criticize them no matter what they do.

If they simply do nothing, the pro-library crowd will feel that they are not acting correctly.

If they simply raise taxes, the anti-crowd will feel similarly.

I'm not sure why you think that allowing a community to vote on something like this is either irresponsible or corrupt - do you dislike the idea of democracy?

lawrencenerd 7 years, 7 months ago

Maybe if everybody who has had property damage or injury due to all the huge potholes around town would sue the city for damages they'd pay more attention to keeping infrastructure intact instead of this stuff.

The library is fine, and I have not seen any evidence that it isn't meeting the needs of the people that use it. You know what they say, don't fix it if it isn't broken. I bet that 18 million would barely cover the damage on peoples vehicles and injuries from getting a bike tire caught in a pothole and getting thrown, etc... Only in Lawrence can mechanics offer a spring pothole tune up special, because other cities actually make an effort to maintain their roadways.

Having people actually fixing infrastructure would actually create more jobs too! Imagine that, using money sensibly instead of what amounts to a vanity project for the city.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 7 months ago

"Only in Lawrence can mechanics offer a spring pothole tune up special, because other cities actually make an effort to maintain their roadways."

I take it that this means that you've done an in-depth study of the pothole situation of lots of cities. Can you share with us the specific results?

lawrencenerd 7 years, 7 months ago

I take it you've never lived in a city that maintains its infrastructure. Ask anybody that has just moved here how awful the potholes are compared to elsewhere. It is quite obvious to those who use their brain power for observation rather than for trolling every commenter on a thread that has a different opinion than they do.

jafs 7 years, 7 months ago

We passed a hike in taxes to help cover the expenses of infrastructure maintenance already.

lawrencenerd 7 years, 7 months ago

No, I'm saying they should be fixed quickly and efficiently. One pothole on my street that I'd reported in early spring is still there, much larger, and people bottom out on it regularly. It's already fall, it should have been fixed in spring time. I won't be surprised if they don't fix it at all until after the upcoming winter has had its way with it and it is even more ridiculously huge. Building a bigger library is far less necessary than maintaining infrastructure.

jafs 7 years, 7 months ago

I'm in complete agreement with your last sentence.

And, I don't understand why the city can't seem to do a better job of that.

jayhawklawrence 7 years, 7 months ago

Stop spending our money.

Figure out how to live within your means like everybody else.

Only raise taxes in times of emergency.

We have the Republican legislature pulling back from funding education. Guess who is going to be asked to pay more in local education taxes?

Government cannot manage money, they can only spend it and they don't spend it wisely. They NEVER make any money without raising taxes.

We need to promote philanthropy in the private sector to fund projects like libraries and sports complexes. We need to stop saddling citizens with enormous living expenses they can no longer afford.

We need our citizens to save for retirement and for emergencies because social security is going broke. The lock box got picked by politicians.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 7 months ago

Interesting post. Not because it contributes anything useful to the topic at hand, but rather, because it shows how hard you are straining to find some way to denigrate and ridicule your perceived bogeymen as Limbaugh and Beck have trained you to do.

How long till you get your secret decoder ring?

jayhawklawrence 7 years, 7 months ago

Our country is considering to legalize marijuana because we need the revenue stream that can come from taxing it as a legal drug.

Think about it.

Our government has reached the point where we have to sell dope to stay in business.

They will never stop trying to get a larger and larger portion of our income each month. It will never stop until we have the guts to tell them NO.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 7 months ago

The dope is already being sold. It's just a matter of whether we quit wasting valuable resources trying to prevent something that's relatively harmless, and generate some tax dollars on something that's already happening anyway.

And really, what does dope-smoking have to do with expanding the children's reading room?

justsaying 7 years, 7 months ago

I would agree with you that that is how it feels. Every organization under the sky is asking for contributions and every service needs help right now. However, the issue is on the ballot so that you do get a say in the outcome. The issues that I disagree with more are those that we don't vote on. I respect everyone's opinion on the library issue. It's a tough call. If this were for something that I thought would not benefit the community as a whole, I would vote No. I believe it does a lot more than offer books. Lawrence needs jobs. Companies look at these types of things when considering Lawrence. Otherwise, like it or not, Lawrence will need Walmart because we all need jobs and they know they have a working base when we don't attract better businesses to the area. By the way, I don't think Walmart is evil.... just an example of the type of business that wants to be here.

kugrad 7 years, 7 months ago

Here are my concerns and the reasons I plan to vote no on this proposal. 1) Public input was primarily gathered at the library itself, which predisposes the input toward the positive end of the spectrum to some degree

2) There was a LOT of input against the proposal and/or against certain aspects of the proposal. It was completely ignored. There were NO CHANGES TO THE PROPOSAL after public input.

3) The lack of changes following input from the public shows that the Library staff behind the proposal had no sincere interest in feedback from the public, but just gathered it so they could say they did. Otherwise, their plans would have some significant tweaks.

4) I do not think the community of Lawrence should add 100 more computers simply because some non-local library group of professional librarians has established this as an arbitrary standard. Shouldn't a community have the right to decide if it wants to provide that much free internet access? One of the points that many community members did not agree with was the increase in computers. With all the free wi-fi and the low cost of laptops, this "standard" which the proposal cites, is out of date.

5) I find those who, like Mr. Cromwell, frame this issue as a choice between expansion and cuts to services to be practicing politics by threat. The library can continue to do what it does without expansion.

6.) The library does a fine job and meets the needs of my family as is. This is a poor choice of times to put this to a vote. To argue that it is never a good time is to ignore that we are coming out of the worst recession since WWII.

7.) Property taxes is not a fair funding vehicle. Property owners have had to handle many increases in the last decade. They are all small, they all add up to a huge percentage increase. Public input suggested looking at other funding options, but they just stuck with taxes. Be more creative in looking for funding options. Charge for internet access - everyone else pays.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 7 months ago

"The library can continue to do what it does without expansion."

If demand continues to increase as it has over the last few years, the library can't be expected to maintain the same level of service with current facilities.

"Property taxes is not a fair funding vehicle."

I partially agree. While I think that this particular use of property taxes could be appropriate, the general over-reliance on property taxes, combined with current economic conditions, make this a difficult choice for many people, even if they think the library expansion is a good idea.

LadyJ 7 years, 7 months ago

Speaking of potholes that "should" have been fixed, 19th street between Barker and Haskell was really, really bad last winter. I figured that street would be fixed this summer, but guess what? Watch the cars driving down that street, many heading east drive with one wheel in the bike lane to avoid the bumpy ride. Of course that means potholes will form in the bike lane and a bicyclist will be killed again, and then guess what. Yup, lawsuit against the city.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 7 months ago

Interesting. We can know a few things from this post.

The T-- you have a phobia about being in close proximity to people

Library-- you're ignorant, and like it that way

Trails-- You're a lardbutt.

Wetlands-- You own a paving company.

riverdrifter 7 years, 7 months ago

Also has a preference for Grey Goose, Boz...

fancy80 7 years, 7 months ago

If the number one improvement issue that most people expressed to Aron Cromwell was the library, then Aron Cromwell must have knocked on a lot of Fritzell's doors. They stand to make the most money here. The plan, at least at one point was for the Fritzell's to do the building and lease it back to the city. I don't think we (the public) are being told the whole story, or all of the details. I'm not anti-library. I read every day. Simply put, I do not think this is the best time (given the economy), nor do I think this is the best plan. I would consider voting yes for SOME improvements at a later date.

BigPrune 7 years, 7 months ago

They better get this passed on this election cycle, before Kobach gets elected. I predict 70% pass this turd, just like the M-T bus. Then it will be unquestionable. This is Lawrence KS after all, the only liberal bastion in Kansas. This explains why we never spend our money wisely.

Now off to Topeka, I feel a magnet tugging on me from their "destination" library, or is that coming from Columbia, MO? I didn't realize those towns had libraries. I wonder if either would let me check out a book, since I don't live in either town?

pearlearrings 7 years, 7 months ago

As a state employee who has not seen a raise in salary in two years but all other expenses continue to increase, I am voting no to a library renovation. I am also speaking to everyone that I know urging them to vote no also. Since our lovely city leaders feel justified in turning away businesses who would contribute to our tax base, I feel compelled to turn down every request that they put before the voters. I also just received my health insurance plan for 2011. My premium increased 8 percent and all of my co-pays and deductibles have increased. This is just one example of the erosion of my salary.

d_prowess 7 years, 7 months ago

The article says that the Library turned away 191 meetings last year. Can anyone explain who those meetings were for? And do they charge anything for their meeting space? My guess would be no, but depending on who is using the space, it might not be crazy to start.

breeze 7 years, 7 months ago

Vote against the library referendum if you want Lawrence to continue to lag behind other cities in Kansas and the US. Who needs books? Who needs free computer access? Who needs children's materials? The people of Lawrence clearly do but there are so many constipated grumblers commenting here that an outsider would not know that.

lawrencenerd 7 years, 7 months ago

Oddly enough, we already have books, free computer access, and children's materials at the library, without having to spend 18 million dollars to use them. You know what we need more in Kansas and the US than fixing something that isn't broken? Using money responsibly and creating new jobs in a tough economic climate.

pea 7 years, 7 months ago

d_prowess: According to the Library's website, non-profits can meet for free, businesses must pay. I would like to know how many of the 191 turned away would have paid. I can only guess that is was not a great number since we are not told explicitly how much revenue was lost due to overcrowding. Too bad no one at the LJW asked more questions like this.

Self aggrandizing? Agree. False dichotomy? Agree.

It's just a darn shame about that impending Library implosion that can only be averted with $18M in debt!

d_prowess 7 years, 7 months ago

Despite my feelings on this project, and those of the majority of commenter, I completely believe this project will get about 70% of the vote. People here just have a hard time saying no to projects that sound good and don't care enough to be critical of them. And I do support some type of updating/expansion/satellite improvement of our library. I just feel this project is too large and expensive to reflect the actual critical needs the library probably has given the information they have provided through stories in the LJW.

CHKNLTL 7 years, 7 months ago

Look at how well the city spent the tax increase dollars for the empTy bus! I read last week that half the fleet is down and they have cut a bunch of routes and changed pick-up times to where fewer passengers use it.... How many mills are already taxed on property in this town anyway? I'm sure it's listed on people's property tax assessments, but not owning property, I don't have one of those evil pages.

David Roberts 7 years, 7 months ago

I support a free and well-stocked public library that affords all citizens of Lawrence access to the resources that will allow them to pursue a self-directed course of education in the great ideas of humanity.

Unless I am mistaken, this proposal seems to center around a parking facility, more meeting rooms, a new facade, and a great expansion of computers.

I like the idea of providing public meeting space at existing retail locations that are currently vacant. Reference materials could be moved to such a location as well, which would create more space in the central library if needed.

What are the computers in the public library used for? I'm all for providing free public access for things like writing resumes, but not for playing Farmville. Perhaps those in the know could give some insight into how the computers are currently being used.

thinkerfromtopeka 7 years, 7 months ago

As a Librarian from Topeka, I know how popular our Library is to Topekans, and those from Lawrence. Yes, we have over 100 computers, and many are used for games, but there are many more researching and applying for jobs, improving their resumes, or keeping in touch with friends and family. We had to put a 2 hour limit on them, because of their popularity. I strongly encourage you to vote yes for your Library.

Dan Simons 7 years, 7 months ago

First, let me acknowledge that I am part owner of the Riverfront mall property, adjacent property and an officer with the World Company. Regardless of any personal benefit, I believe there are alternatives to the $18 million library expansion plan that is being presented for a public vote. I believe the following scenario deserves consideration. These numbers were sent on June 18th to library board members and city commission members. I never heard one word back. $1.7 million: Buy Abe and Jakes. 20,000 square feet, large public entertaining, reading, meeting, and coffee shop space on the river, on city land. $4.5 million: Buy the west half of the Riverfront Plaza. Three levels, 70,000 square feet, 230 cat-5 Ethernet wired computer stations, 500 parking stalls, all on city land. $5 million: Renovate the 40,000 square feet on floors one and two at $125/square foot. For $11 million, Lawrence could have a beautiful 90,000-square-foot library, on the river, with a 500-stall existing parking structure, all on city-owned land and enhancing the city’s relationship to the river. And the community library still would be downtown. All work could be done with no interruption to current library operations. The city then could sell the existing library space to help finance the project. Who knows? Possibly a downtown grocery might materialize. I’ve been told an excuse for not considering this is that the Plaza is not class A property. Why would the city government need class A property in these times? I’ve heard some people don’t think the facility can structurally support the weight of stacks of books. This is untrue; we have provided engineering studies that show it can. This space also offers the possibility for future expansion. For about $7 million (at $200 a square foot), a 35,000-square-foot glassed indoor space could be created on the Plaza roof overlooking the river. This idea and other alternatives deserve to be publicly discussed.

Dan Simons

jafs 7 years, 7 months ago

Those are certainly interesting ideas.

The parking at the Riverfront Mall seems quite full most of the time now, though - how would it accomodate a large number of library visitors?

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