Library looking to move to Borders

Leaders of the Lawrence Public Library have reached a preliminary deal to open a temporary location in the former downtown Borders bookstore while a $19 million expansion of the library at Seventh and Vermont takes place during parts of the next two years.

The move — which is still subject to City Commission approval — would allow the library to entirely vacate its current space during the construction project.

“This will allow us to provide so much better customer service than if we tried to stay and work through the construction,” said Library Director Brad Allen.

City commissioners at their Aug. 14 meeting likely will be asked to approve the approximately $240,000 lease for the vacant Borders building at Seventh and New Hampshire streets.

As proposed, the library would be able to make the move and still stay within the $19 million budget for the expansion, which was approved by voters in November 2010. Library leaders believe moving into the temporary location will actually reduce the total moving expenses budgeted for the project. That is because if the library stayed at it current location during the project, there would be at least eight moves taking place within the building.

Architects also are estimating the project’s contingency line item can be reduced by about $70,000 to help cover the cost of the Borders lease.

Allen said if city commissioners approve the lease, the temporary space could be open by early January. He said current plans call for all of the library’s public computers to be moved to the new location and about half of the library’s collection.

But Allen said the rest of the collection will be stored in a readily accessible off-site location, and that patrons could request any item in the library’s collection and likely receive it within a day.

Allen, however, said the Borders space will not leave much room for meeting or programming space. He said the library would work to create partnerships with other venues around town to hold traditional library programming during the construction.

“We’re looking at it as a really good outreach opportunity that will allow us to take library programming out to some other locations in the community,” Allen said.

How long the library may be located in the Borders spot isn’t yet known. Allen said the proposed lease is for 20 months. Architects are estimating it will take 18 to 22 months for the library project — which also includes construction of a parking garage — to be completed.

As proposed, the city will pay a lease rate of about $7 per square foot for the Borders building, which has been vacant since early 2011.

— City reporter Chad Lawhorn can be reached at 832-6362. Follow him at