Library reworks space to meet growing demand
River Falls Public Library Director Nancy Miller said about the 11-year-old structure, "Our circulation has doubled since we've been in this building."
The City Council voted at its meeting Tuesday night to let the library advertise to receive bids for its planned remodeling job. The plan includes interior modifications to allow more room for some library functions and the re-arrangement of others.
Miller said growth and demand drive the changes.
For example, when the library opened, it didn't need much space for video and DVD rental. Now the area holding those items is undersized.
When building the library, planners didn't realize that the Program Room, mostly used for kids' activities, would be too small to accommodate all the children taking part in daytime programs. Miller said there's rarely enough room to fit all the little people in there.
She said about the modifications, "The main goals of this thing are to increase the audio-visual area and create a better children's space..."
Miller said the meeting room where the board convenes is booked just about all day every day. Often it isn't big enough for the groups who want to use it.
"Right now, we're turning people away for meetings all the time," Miller said.
She remembers when the new library opened. It had one computer and a dial-up Internet connection. Now many people come to use the bank of seven computers and wireless high-speed connection.
"They're used by so many people," said Miller about the public-access computers.
She said the library recorded 41,000 sessions last year and says that's because the library is a bridge for people who may not have a computer, visitors from out of town, students, job applicants, users whose machine is broken and others who seek a faster connection for tasks.
Miller said the only change to the actual building footprint will be in the Program Room where kids gather, which faces St. Bridget Catholic Church. The room will be expanded a bit, bumped out to about where a pine tree in front of it sits, and rounded to create a bigger room about 21 feet by 27 feet.
Miller said the library will re-use the windows there and elsewhere plus any doors removed.
A mechanical deck on the building's south side, which most people don't see, will be converted into interior space that will enable expansion of the audio-visual room. The cooling units taken from the mechanical deck will be moved onto a concrete pad on the lawn.
Miller said the audio-visual room has grown a lot as commuters come in for books on tape and as demand for videos and DVDs grows.
The current ground-floor meeting room becomes part of staff offices, and the new meeting room will offer more space. Moving around staff offices and the history area will help expand the computer room.
Miller said after the expansion, the library could add five more computers, which will come as funds allow.
The remodel also includes adding new study areas and relocating the reference desk.
Miller said impact fees already collected from new development and sitting in a library account will pay for the $250,000 project, but only if construction bids come back as the city expects. She plans to approach the library's Foundation board about helping cover unexpected costs, insisting that the project will not use any taxpayer money.
"If the bids come back way high, we'll have to wait," she said about the project.
She said when work start depends mostly on the bids but said she expects it would be by late this year or early next.
Miller said the changes happening are tied to growth, and there's been plenty of that. She said the needed modifications relate to what people demand and how they use the building.
She said the automatic counter tallied 185,000 visits during last year, which doesn't include people coming to the meeting rooms or visitors who come to see the public art downstairs.
"It's a very, very heavily used building," said Miller.