Library and city officials are faced with an interesting balancing act when it comes to maintaining library services during a construction period that could stretch as long as two years.
Moving library operations to another downtown location while the library undergoes a $19 million expansion almost certainly would provide easier access and better service for library patrons. However, the cost of such a move wasn’t included in the bond issue that will fund the expansion, and library officials are uncertain where money would come from to finance it. They had hoped that vacating the building would speed the completion of the project and perhaps reduce the costs enough to help finance a move. The construction manager for the library project is studying possible savings, but if the savings fall short of the amount needed to lease a location and move some of the library’s operations, officials will have to look at other ways to finance that cost or do the best they can to accommodate patrons at the current site.
There are good arguments for moving key library operations to another downtown site. No part of the current library building will be spared during the construction. That means that, without a move, library staff and functions would be forced to move several times during the construction period. Power interruptions that come with construction likely would play havoc with the library’s own computer system as well as the computers available to the public. Perhaps the biggest factor, however, is parking. The parking lot to the south of the library will be largely unavailable during the construction project, which includes building a three-level parking garage on part of that lot. Given all of these factors, it would be difficult for the library to continue even basic services like children’s activities and computer access at the current site during construction.
For that reason, it makes sense for the library to do whatever it can afford to do to mitigate the impact of the construction project on patrons. A temporary location couldn’t offer all of the services now available at the library, but it could provide a place for children’s story hour, current periodicals, perhaps some public meeting space and at least limited public computer access. Maybe the library could move a limited selection of videos and books to that location and have a system for quickly providing other materials when they are requested. It wouldn’t be the level of service patrons expect at the current library, but it would be better than trying to visit the library during various stages of construction with extremely limited parking.
Obviously, library officials need to examine the trade-offs carefully. Can they provide adequate service at the current location at a lower cost than moving to another location? Will services be adequate at a temporary location to justify the cost of a move?
Maintaining library services is important to the community, but it must be done in a fiscally responsible way.